On August 4, 2022, the first legal domino fell against Alex Jones. Perhaps that's what history will say about the decision handed down by a Texas jury on Thursday.
Nearly a decade after the right-wing conspiracy theorist and Infowars founder started to spread heinous lies about Sandy Hook, a jury weighed in and awarded the parents of one shooting victim about $4 million in compensatory damages.
The decision is a partial ending to a years-long process that began in 2018 when this set of parents sued Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Infowars. And while the $4 million compensatory figure is far short of the $150 million the plaintiffs asked for, it's far from the end of Jones' legal woes.
On Friday, starting at 10am ET, the court will hold a separate trial during which punitive damages will be discussed. Punitive damages are awarded when the court finds the defendant's behavior to be especially offensive.
More broadly, this particular trial was only the beginning. Jones still faces a much larger looming case in Connecticut, where multiple families have won a default judgement against him there. He faces another trial with another set of parents in Texas. His company Free Speech Systems is now in court after declaring bankruptcy. There are questions whether he will face criminal penalties after seemingly perjuring himself. And the attorney for the Sandy Hook parents in the current case, Mark Bankston, says he plans on turning the contents of Jones' phone to the House 1/6 Committee and an unnamed law enforcement agency.
Which is all to say, the judicial system is just getting warmed up for Jones...
"Jones' time on the American stage is finally coming to an end"
That is what attorney Bankston told me in a statement after the jury handed down its decision. He was referencing this particular case, but he was also referencing all of that aforementioned legal trouble Jones finds himself in as well.
"Neil and Scarlett are thrilled with the result and look forward to putting Mr. Jones' money to good use," Bankston said, referring to the plaintiffs. "Mr. Jones on the other hand will not sleep easy tonight. With punitive damages still to be decided and multiple additional defamation lawsuits pending, it is clear that Mr Jones' time on the American stage is finally coming to an end."
>> Of note: While the jury awarded a little more than $4 million to the parents on Thursday, they have now won a total of $5.6 million in this case, per Bankston. That is because prior to the trial, the judge overseeing the case slapped Jones with sanctions for failing to comply with court orders...
Should they have received more?
There has been a significant amount of discussion on whether the jury should have awarded more compensatory damages to the parents -- especially given how much money Jones has made over the years as he's peddled horrific lies. Paul Callan, a CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor, said Thursday night on "AC360" that he suspects the jury may have taken into consideration that there are other pending cases against Jones. Callan noted that this case involved just one set of parents, whereas the Connecticut case involves many more.
"All of them have to be compensated by different verdicts," Callan said. "If the jury was to award enormous amounts of money, the $150 million for instance in this case, what would be left for the other victims? He'd be out of money and they'd be out of luck. So I suspect that the jury was thinking about that and trying to come up with a fair number that could be used as a template going down the road to compensate other victims here."
>> Here's how Twitter lawyer @Popehat broke down the $4 million figure as well: "The function of compensatory damages is to compensate, not punish. So, millions of dollars in compensatory damages for harm that is primarily emotional distress is actually pretty high and likely appropriate..."
Jones' attorney did not respond to requests for comment. But Jones, who was notably absent from the court as the jury's decision was read, celebrated the jury's verdict in a video he posted to Infowars. Jones called it a "major victory for truth."
"They thought they would shut us down," Jones said. "But that jury understood the truth and resisted the propaganda."
The 1/6 angle
Earlier in the day, before the jury handed down its decision, Bankston and Jones attorney Federico Andino Reynal were back in court for a hearing related to the phone records that the plaintiffs' counsel inadvertently received. Reynal tried to argue before the court that the plaintiffs' lawyers should delete the records. Meanwhile, Bankston said that the 1/6 House Committee had requested the records — along with an unnamed law enforcement agency — and that he was going to turn them over barring an order from the judge preventing him from doing so.
The judge gave Reynal the day to look through the material and try to come up with a legal argument that would privilege the records. But it doesn't look very good for Reynal. Speaking about the 1/6 committee and how they could subpoena the phone records, the judge flatly said, "I don't know that you get to stop that anyway."
We should hear more from the judge on this Friday. If Reynal hasn't come up with a firm legal argument, which seems unlikely, it's possible the 1/6 committee could have these phone records in their hands before the weekend...
Our new podcast conversation about Alex Jones
BY BRIAN STELTER:
Podcasters sometimes convene an "emergency podcast" to talk about breaking news. This is our version. On this brand new episode of the "Reliable Sources" podcast, Oliver Darcy and Jennifer Mercieca analyze Jones' legal quagmire and all of the impending litigation. Mercieca points out that Jones' media properties have "had a hard time acquiring new customers" as of late. At the same time, Darcy observes that Jones has "become more accepted by the right-wing media" in recent years. Tune in here...