A financial expert testifying for the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting estimates that Alex Jones and his media company are worth between $135 million and $240 million as they seek damages that higher than the $4.1 million they secured a day ago. the US conspiracy theorist’s lies about the massacre.
The expert, Bernard Pettingill, said from the witness box in an Austin courtroom that Jones and his company Free Speech Systems made more than $50 million annually between 2016 and 2021 — even when popular social media companies banned him from promoting himself through them — because of his “rabid following” of millions.
Pettingill added that it was difficult to read Jones’ financial outlook precisely because he used a web of empty companies that own nothing and employ no one to move money from him.
Jones also reported loans totaling more than $50 million in an apparent bid to make it look like he’s worth less than he is, and he failed to release the financial data Pettingill needed to form his assessment, testified. the expert.
But Pettingill said he saw evidence that Jones could withdraw — or pay for itself — $18 million from Free Speech Systems between 2015 and 2018. was a complicated ruse to gain support for gun control reform, Jones paid himself $62 million, Pettingill said.
“We can’t put our finger on what he does for a living,” Pettingill said of Jones’ ability to capitalize on unhinged, baseless conspiracy theories. “He didn’t ride a wave – he created a wave.”
For his part, Jones’ attorney, Federico Andino Reynal, questioned whether Pettingill’s estimate was responsible for the various pending legal battles he faces.
Pettingill’s testimony came after a 12-member jury on Thursday ordered Jones to pay $4.1 million to the parents of a six-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The shooting on December 14, 2012, killed 20 children and six staff members.
The verdict followed a two-week trial in the city where Jones’ radio show and webcast Infowars is based.
But $4.1 million may not be all Jones has to pay. That amount is to compensate the parents of plaintiffs Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of six-year-old Jesse Lewis.
But the parents are also seeking punitive damages, which could be awarded in addition to compensation for what a jury found to be particularly blatant conduct by a defendant.
Jurors would begin to deliberate on what is essentially a second verdict after Pettingill stepped off the witness stand late Friday morning.
Mark Bankston, an attorney representing Heslin and Lewis, thanked the jurors on Thursday for the damages. But he said Friday he hoped the judges would send “a very, very simple message — and that’s stop Alex Jones, stop monetizing misinformation and lies. Please.”
Heslin and Lewis testified that Jones’ followers harassed them for years under the false belief that the parents were lying about their son’s death. They accused Jones of defaming them and intentionally inflicting emotional distress on them.
Jones tried to distance himself from the conspiracy theories during his testimony, saying he was sorry if he hurt the parents’ feelings, while acknowledging that Sandy Hook was “100% real”.
Kyle Farrar, a parental attorney, urged jurors during closing arguments on Wednesday to hold Jones responsible for profiting from their son’s death.
Reynal, Jones’ attorney, told the jury Wednesday that Infowars had reported “irresponsibly” about Sandy Hook, but said his client was not liable for the actions of his followers.
Jones’ company, Free Speech Systems, filed for federal bankruptcy protection last week. Jones said on Monday’s broadcast that the filing will help the company stay afloat as it appeals the outcome of the Austin case.
The bankruptcy order ended a similar but much larger libel suit filed by multiple Sandy Hook families in Connecticut, where, as in Texas, he has already been found liable. He also faces another lawsuit brought by other parents in Texas.
Jones could also be charged with perjury after one of the most memorable episodes of the Austin trial, when Bankston revealed to the defendant in the civil case that his legal team “made a mistake” and provided “every text message” that Jones had written for the past two years.
Those messages contained lyrics ostensibly contradicting claims Jones had made under oath in a previous statement that he had nothing on his phone related to the Sandy Hook massacre. Bankston said he notified Jones’ lawyers about the apparently inaccurate leak, but the defense never took steps to label the communications “privileged,” which could have kept them out of court.
Bankston also said Thursday that the congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol had asked the panel to provide the texts of Jones, a prominent supporter of former President Donald Trump.
A pro-Trump mob carried out the attack on the Capitol, and the panel apparently wants to see what communications the deposed president’s team may have had with Jones.
Bankston said he intended to comply with the request unless a judge ordered him to do otherwise. It was unclear if and when that might happen.