Alex Jones Ordered To Pay 45 Million More (Possibly Symbolic) Dollars To Sandy Hook Family
On Friday afternoon, a Texas jury ordered Alex Jones to pay $45.2 million in punitive damages to Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Sandy Hook victim Jesse Lewis. This is in addition to the $4.1 million in compensatory damages he was ordered to pay them earlier this week for the absolute hell he put them through, claiming for years that Sandy Hook was a false flag. So that's nice!
Jones's net worth is estimated to be between $70 million and $140 million, while the combined net worth of Jones and Infowars, which filed for bankruptcy last week, is estimated to be somewhere between $135 million and $270 million. Thus, this lawsuit, combined with the two upcoming similar lawsuits from Sandy Hook parents in Texas and Connecticut, could actually put a dent in the man's estate.
Unfortunately, because Texas has a cap on civil lawsuits, it is entirely possible that he will end up having to pay a whole lot less. The statutory cap (thanks tort reform!) is $750,000 and Jones's attorneys have already filed a motion to reduce the payment to this amount.
This is the kind of statute that makes sense to people who like to whine about how litigious our country has become — people who frequently don't really understand why civil lawsuits exist in the first place.
The thing is, punitive damages are not supposed to be about what the victims deserve so much as they're supposed to be about discouraging the behavior that led to the lawsuit in the first place and making it more expensive to engage in that behavior than it is worth. Thus punitive damages. We do things this way because Republicans don't want want to tell rich people what they can't do.
Rather than requiring car manufacturers put airbags in their car, we allow people to sue them when they get maimed in an accident, eventually making it less expensive to just put the airbags in all of their cars to begin with. Rather than eliminating at-will employment and making it so it would be illegal or at least a lot more difficult to fire someone for discriminatory reasons, we make it so those who are fired for discriminatory reasons have to spend a fuckton of time and money suing their former employers for what will hopefully be a little more than what they paid their lawyers. Rather than barring corporations from polluting groundwater, residents can just sue them once they are already sick and dying.
Rather than the government fining Alex Jones every time he makes a false statement that could lead to people being harmed or engaging in any kind of prior restraint (which is largely illegal in the United States, barring national security concerns), people can sue him after they are harmed. Now, that one I actually agree with, because it's more of a free speech issue than a "protecting rich people from having to be decent human beings" issue — but at the same time, unless the defendant is actually required to pay the full amount in punitive damages, the purpose of the civil lawsuit is not really served.
But, you know, it's Texas and they don't so much care about any of that.
However, all is not lost. Mark Bankston, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, told Bloomberg Law, “We do not believe punitive damage caps are constitutional as applied to our case and will certainly litigate that issue if necessary.”
There was a time when I would say that even $49 million would not even put a dent into Jones's operation, but the fact is he has far more competition than he used to. There are now 49 million Alex Joneses out there, streaming their internet TV shows and hawking their nootropics and food buckets. Not only that, but the QAnon people tend not to like him very much and most of them at this point believe he is a CIA asset (or as Q said, "Mossad funded") and "controlled opposition" meant to make conspiracy theorists like themselves seem wacky and off-putting. You know, because that is something they need help with. Otherwise everyone would be like "Wow, these very rational-seeming people may have a point about Tom Hanks's baby-eating habits!"
I'm not saying that this will take Infowars down, that he won't have a career after this or that he won't continue to make millions off of his own pipe dreams. He's very likely to be able to do that — just perhaps not to the extent that he has been able to over the past several years.That market is extremely saturated right now and the niche that Jones occupies within it is getting smaller by the day — so any bumps in the road could actually set him back.
So fingers crossed he actually does have to pay this shit. If not, perhaps the nice jury in Connecticut will do the job.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse