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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his company Free Speech Systems are worth up to $270 million, an economist testified Friday to a jury trying to determine if Jones should have to pay punitive damages to the family of a 6-year-old killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

The same jury ordered Jones to pay Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis $4.1 million in compensation for defamation. Punitive damages are determined as a separate issue, and the parents want to punish Jones for a decade of pushing false hoax claims that they say led to a decade of trauma and abuse from the Infowars host’s followers.

Bernard Pettingill, who was hired by the plaintiffs to study Jones’ net worth, said records show that Jones withdrew $62 million for himself in 2021, when default judgments were issued in lawsuits against him.

“That number represents, in my opinion, a value of a net worth,” Pettingill said. “He’s got money put in a bank account somewhere.”

The money that flows into Jones’ companies eventually funnels its way to him, said Pettingill, who added that he has testified in approximately 1,500 cases during his career.

“He is a very successful man,” Pettingill said, calling Jones a “maverick” and “revolutionary” for finding ways to monetize his online messaging.

While the $4.1 million award Thursday was less than the $150 million the parents sought, it marked the first time Jones has been held financially liable for repeatedly claiming that the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history was a hoax perpetrated to try to bring about tighter gun restrictions.

Mark Bankston, an attorney for parents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was among 20 children and six educators killed in the school attack in Newtown, Connecticut, insisted that the $4.1 million compensation award wasn’t a disappointment and warned that they would be trying to punish Jones in the next phase.

“We aren’t done yet,” Bankston said Thursday. “After tomorrow, he’s going to owe a whole lot more.”

Jones still faces two other defamation lawsuits from Sandy Hook families in Texas and Connecticut that put his personal wealth and media empire in jeopardy.

Jones — who was in the courtroom briefly Friday but left before Pettingill’s testimony — told jurors earlier this week that any award over $2 million would “sink us.” And a week ago, his company Free Speech Systems, which is Infowars’ parent company, filed for federal bankruptcy protection.

Lawyers for the family suing Jones contend that Jones has tried to hide evidence of his true wealth and have sued him claiming he’s tried to hide money in various shell companies.

During his testimony, Jones was confronted with a memo from one of his business managers outlining a single day’s gross revenue of $800,000 from selling vitamin supplements and other products through his website, which would approach nearly $300 million in a year. Jones called it a record sales day.

Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights, conceded during the trial that the attack was “100% real” and that he was wrong to have lied about it. But Heslin and Lewis told jurors that an apology wouldn’t suffice and called on them to make Jones pay for the years of suffering he has put them and other Sandy Hook families through.

The parents told jurors about how they’ve endured a decade of trauma, inflicted first by the murder of their son and what followed: gun shots fired at a home, online and phone threats, and harassment on the street by strangers. They said the threats and harassment were all fueled by Jones and his conspiracy theory spread to his followers via his website Infowars.

A forensic psychiatrist testified that the parents suffer from “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” inflicted by ongoing trauma, similar to what might be experienced by a soldier at war or a child abuse victim.

Throughout the trial, Jones has been his typically bombastic self, talking about conspiracies on the witness stand, during impromptu press conferences and on his show. His erratic behavior is unusual by courtroom standards, and the judge has scolded him, telling him at one point: “This is not your show.”

The trial has drawn attention from outside Austin as well.

Bankston told the court Thursday that the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has requested records from Jones’ phone that Jones’ attorneys had mistakenly turned over to the plaintiffs. Bankston later said he planned to comply with the committee’s request.

Last month, the Jan. 6 committee showed graphic and violent text messages and played videos of right-wing figures, including Jones, and others vowing that Jan. 6 would be the day they would fight for Trump.

The committee first subpoenaed Jones in November, demanding a deposition and documents related to his efforts to spread misinformation about the 2020 election and a rally on the day of the attack.

___

Find AP’s full coverage of the Alex Jones trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/alex-jones

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Former The Voice Cast Member Being Sued for $100 Million

NBC "The Voice"

Pop music superstar and former “The Voice” mega mentor Ed Sheeran is being sued for $100 million and has been ordered to stand trial in the lawsuit, as reported by Billboard.

The lawsuit, which started in 2018, alleges that Sheeran copied parts of “Let’s Get It On” in his 2014 hit song “Thinking Out Loud.”

Sheeran was first sued by Townsend’s family in 2016, though that case was dismissed, according to Newsweek.

The 31-year-old singer is being sued by investment banker David Pullman and his company Structured Asset Sales, which acquired a portion of Ed Townsend’s estate. Townsend co-wrote the 1973 song with Marvin Gaye, according to Billboard.

“Thinking Out Loud” was awarded the 2014 Grammy for Song of the Year.

Sheeran’s Attorneys Argue the Elements Were Not Unique Enough View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ed Sheeran (@teddysphotos)

According to the Billboard report, Sheeran’s attorneys argued that the elements that were claimed to be stolen were not unique enough to be covered by copyright law. Judge Louis Stanton, however, ordered the lawsuit to trial by jury.

“There is no bright-line rule that the combination of two unprotectable elements is insufficiently numerous to constitute an original work,” the judge said, per Newsweek. “A work may be copyrightable even though it is entirely a compilation of unprotectable elements.”

The suit claims that the 2014 song uses “melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, instrumental and dynamic elements” from “Let’s Get It On,” according to Newsweek.

No date has yet been set for the trial, though it will take place at a Manhattan federal courthouse.

Sheeran has argued in the past that plagiarism claims are damaging to the songwriting industry and some common elements are inevitable because of how much music is readily available.

“There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music,” Sheeran said on Instagram. “Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify. That’s 22 million songs a year, and there’s only 12 notes that are available.”

Taylor Swift Is Also Facing a Copyright Lawsuit

Taylor Swift, who is a longtime collaborator of Sheeran’s and was also a Mega Mentor on “The Voice,” is also being sued. The star is being sued by Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, writers of “Playas Gon’ Play,” which was a song released in 2000. They allege that she stole the lyrics of their song for “Shake It Off.”

The 31-year-old singer-songwriter claims she never listened to the band 3LW before she wrote the song “Shake It Off” in response to a lawsuit filed by the band.

According to USA Today, the songwriters filed a lawsuit about copyright infringement in 2017, but that suit was originally dismissed in 2018. The judge at the time wrote that the lyrics were “too banal” to be stolen. An appeal reignited the case, however, and Swift’s December 2021 request for dismissal was denied with a judge stating the cases have “enough objective similarities.”

The lawsuit filed against Swift alleges she stole lyrics from the 2001 song. They point to the lyrics “playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate.” In “Shake It Off,” Swift sings, “the players gonna play, play, play” and “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate.”

The date for the trial has been pushed back multiple times.

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