Alex Jones’ damages send message to right wing voices

Adrienne Lawrence
Liberal Opinion

Adrienne Lawrence

Legal commentator
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One day after a judge ordered conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages for falsely claiming the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, a Texas jury awarded the parents of one of the victims another $45.2 million in punitive damages. But with Texas law — in most cases — capping punitive damages at $750,000, the award might end up being nothing more than a message. Still, Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence argues the large award will send a message to other right-wing voices to “choose their words more wisely”:

The eight-figure verdict against Alex Jones was long overdue. The Infowars host had been peddling blatant lies about the very occurrence of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, which happened to be one of the nation’s worst school shootings.

While the verdict — which is comprised of $4.1 million in compensatory damages and a whopping $45.2 million in punitive damages — is definitely much less than the $150 million sought by the Sandy Hook parents, it is still very impactful.

Now unfortunately, the Sandy Hook parents likely will not take home anywhere near the near $50 million total. But even so, this verdict is being felt by folks far beyond Jones, and it feels pretty good. First, let’s go ahead and talk about those punitive damages.

Now, you’d like to think that a jury award should stand as it is, right? You know, we had members of the Austin, Texas community come together for two weeks to hear this defamation case against Jones and ultimately they came to the decision based on the evidence. They heard that Jones admitted to lying, knowing that the Sandy Hook shooting actually occurred…testimony from the parents suffering from complex post traumatic stress disorder due to the harassment by Infowars fans — this per the AP. The parents told jurors about how they’ve endured a decade of trauma inflicted first by the murder of their son and what followed — gunshots fired at home, online and phone threats, and harassment on the street by strangers — all fueled by Jones and his conspiracy theories spread to his followers at Infowars.

With that evidence, the people decided that in addition to paying $4 million to compensate the parents, Jones should be punished to the tune of $45 million. Punitive damages are a legal avenue for punishing intentionally bad actors, hopefully putting them out of business so they stop harming society. It’s a way for the community to communicate disdain for the behavior at issue. Awarding Sandy Hook parents $45.2 million sends the message.

The eight figure verdict against Alex Jones was long overdue. The Infowars host had been peddling blatant lies about the very occurrence of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, which happened to be one of the nation’s worst school shootings, while the verdict which is comprised of 4.1 million in compensatory damages, and a whopping $45.2 million in punitive damages is definitely much less than the 100 and 50 million sought by the Sandy Hook parents, it is still very impactful. Now unfortunately, the Sandy Hook parents likely will not take home anywhere near the near $50 million total. But even so this verdict is being felt by folks far beyond Jones, and it feels pretty good. First, let’s go ahead and talk about those punitive damages. Now, you’d like to think that a jury award should stand as it is right. You know, we had members of the Austin Texas community come together for two weeks to hear this defamation case against Jones and ultimately they came to the decision based on the evidence. They heard that Jones admitted to lying, knowing that the Sandy Hook shooting actually occurred. Testimony from the parents suffering from complex post traumatic stress disorder due to the harassment by Infowars fans. This per the AP. The parents told jurors about how they’ve endured a decade of trauma inflicted first by the murder of their son and what followed, gunshots fired at home, online and phone threats and harassment on the street by strangers, all fueled by Jones and his conspiracy theories spread to his followers get Infowars.

With that evidence, the people decided that in addition to paying 4 million to compensate the parents, Jones should be punished to the tune of 45 million. Punitive damages are a legal avenue for punishing intentionally bad actors, hopefully putting them out of business so they stop harming society. It’s a way for the community to communicate disdain for the behavior at issue. A warning Sandy Hook parents $45.2 million sends the message. And it also seems pretty fair to me, but apparently not to Texas Legislature. You know, the state of Texas caps punitive damages in civil cases, and it also forbids the court from telling jurors about that cap. According to section 41 Point double O eight of the Texas civil practice and remedies code. Punitive damages may not exceed an amount equal to the greater of two times the amount of economic damages plus an amount equal to any non economic damages found by the jury not to exceed $750,000 or $200,000.

TRANSLATION lawmakers in Texas are looking to protect shady folks in positions of power who act maliciously, seriously what is the point of having a jury representing the voice of the people is legislature simply going to muzzle that voice by tapping punitive damages. In the Sandy Hook parents case that means that punitive damages won’t be anywhere near the $45 million award, but it’s likely going to be around $750,000. That is an absolute joke. And it means that the parents will likely take home around 5 million total before legal fees. They deserve more and they deserved better. Now fortunately, because of their willingness to fight back against Alex Jones and his conspiracy theories, this verdict could change the game in terms of how much the right does when it’s doing business in the media.

Over the past several years, our society has been inundated with misinformation and disinformation campaigns. That’s undeniable, just turn on the legs of Fox News and the spin is palpable from Trumpers. What claiming that the 2020 presidential election was stolen to people like Alex Jones maintaining that a mass shooting that took the lives of 26 people, including children was made up, the lack of regard for the truth has been lost because there’s been no accountability for these false fires out here. So even if Jones is ultimately on the hook for just five of that $50 million. Well, that Texas jury sent a message that speaks volumes, they make clear that these right wing voices can no longer lie about the facts with impunity. And it’s clear that these voices already do not like the prospect of accountability. Just look at how Turning Point USA President Charlie Kirk responded when news dropped of the $45 million punitive damages award against Jones. Evidently those on the right who may have been playing fast and loose with facts. Maybe there’ll be more inclined now to choose their words a bit wiser moving forward. And as far as I’m concerned, that is priceless.