Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones took the stand Thursday at his defamation trial in Connecticut, seeking to limit damages he must pay for falsely advocating that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax.
More than a dozen family members of the 20 children and six caregivers killed in the shooting appeared to watch his testimony at Superior Court in Waterbury, about 20 miles from Newtown, where the shooting took place.
One of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Christopher Mattei, showed video from Jones’ Infowars webcast, in which he called the mass shooting a “three-dollar bill” and the victims’ parents “crisis actors.”
“Mr. Jones, if someone lied that a group of families who had lost loved ones were actors and faked the deaths of their loved ones, that would be a horrible story, wouldn’t it?” Mattei asked Jones before showing the video.
“In context, it might be yes,” Jones replied.
Jones had portrayed the Sandy Hook shooting as staged by actors as part of a gun control effort.
He held a news conference outside the courthouse Wednesday where he challenged the process — as he has done on his Infowars show — as a “travesty of justice.” He made similar comments as he entered the courthouse Thursday, indicating he might invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and avoid answering some questions.
“It’s not really a trial,” he said. “It’s a mock trial, literally a kangaroo court.”
Judge Barbara Bellis found Jones guilty last year default damages to the plaintiffs without a trial, as punishment for what he called repeated failures to turn over documents to their attorneys. A jury of just six will decide how much Infowars’ parent company, Jones and Free Speech Systems, should pay the families for defaming them and causing them emotional distress.
Bellis began the day by talking to Jones about topics he can’t testify about. These included free speech, the Sandy Hook families’ $73 million settlement earlier this year with gunmaker Remington — the company that made the Bushmaster rifle used to kill the victims at Sandy Hook — or the percentage of Jones’ broadcasts that discussed Sandy Hook. .
“This is not an appropriate forum for you to offer this testimony,” Bellis said. Jones indicated that he understood.
Bellis has said in court that he is prepared to address any inflammatory testimony from Jones, in contempt of court if necessary.
But Thursday’s early testimony began with Jones agreeing that his website portrayed Bell as a “tyrant” online this week, with lasers coming from his eyes. During the first hour, there were frequent interruptions in testimony and the jury was excused twice as the respective legal teams spoke in open court.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys asked Jones if he believed Bellis was a tyrant and if he called many people tyrants.
“Only if they act like it,” he said.
Relatives admit massacre, tax of misinformation
Several relatives of the victims, meanwhile, have given emotional testimony during the trial about the trauma they suffered, including confrontations in their homes and in public, and threats of death and rape by people who called the shooting a hoax.
The plaintiffs include an FBI agent who responded to the shooting and relatives of eight victims.
Testimony released earlier this week focused on data from Infowars employees’ website analytics showing how sales of supplements, food, clothing and other goods increased while Jones spoke about the Sandy Hook shooting.
Evidence, including internal Infowars emails and statements, also shows divisions within the company over the push for fraudulent lies.
Jones’ attorney, Norman Pattis, argues that damages should be limited and accuses the victims’ relatives of exaggerating the damage caused by the lies. Relatives of those killed have admitted they continue to fear for their safety because of what the crooks have done and may do.
Jennifer Hensel, whose six-year-old daughter Avielle Richman was among those killed, said Wednesday that she was still checking her surroundings for safety, even checking the back seat of her car. She said she was trying to protect her two children, aged seven and five, from the fraudulent lies. The juror cried during her testimony.
“They’re so young,” she said of her children. “Their innocence is so beautiful right now. And at some point there’s going to be a horde of people out there who could hurt them.”
A costly Texas decision
Jones was found guilty by default in two similar cases involving fraud in his hometown of Austin, Texas, where a jury in one trial last month ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the slain children. , although state law may limit the damages it ultimately pays.
A third trial in Texas is expected to begin later this year.
Jones has admitted to making conspiracy claims about other mass tragedies, from the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings to the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida. He apologized on air in 2017 for promoting a hoax that the restaurant was in Washington. child trafficking site, the so-called Pizzagate incident that led to the disturbing shooting incident.
Ideas54:00IDEAS from the Trenches: The Practice of Conspiracy
Removed from social media platforms
Jones has also dabbled in politics on his show. He promoted stolen election claims after Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and was in Washington, D.C., before the Capitol riots.
“I don’t know how this is all going to play out, but if they’re going to fight, you better believe they’ve got one,” Jones said in a widely circulated video at a Jan. 5 rally in Washington.
At the end of a 2015 appearance on the Jones show, then-candidate Trump said, “I want to conclude by saying that you have an amazing reputation.”
Since then, most major social media companies have removed Jones from the program, citing violations of platform rules.