AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones testified Wednesday that he now understood it was irresponsible of him to declare the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a hoax and that he now believed it was “100% real”.
Speaking a day after the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the 2012 attack testified to the suffering, death threats and harassment they endured Because of what Jones trumpeted on his media platforms, the Infowars host told a Texas courtroom that he truly believes the attack happened.
“Especially since I met the parents. It’s 100% real,” Jones said during his trial to determine how much he and his media company, Free Speech Systems, owe for defaming Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis. Their son Jesse Lewis was among 20 students and six educators who were killed in the attack in Newtown, Connecticut, which was the deadliest shooting in American history.
But Heslin and Lewis said on Tuesday that an apology would not be enough and that Jones should be held accountable for repeatedly spreading lies about the attack. They are asking for at least $150 million as part of the lawsuit, which was held to determine how much Jones and his media company, Free Speech Systems, should pay for defaming Heslin and Lewis.
Jones – who described the lawsuit against him as an attack on his First Amendment rights – told the jury that any compensation over $2 million will “sink us,” but added, “I think it’s appropriate for whatever you decide what you want to do.”
Testimony at the trial, now in its second week, ended around noon Wednesday.
During closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, Jones’ attorney Andino Reynal said the plaintiffs failed to prove that his client’s actions and words caused actual harm to Heslin and Lewis. He said it’s fair to infer that someone else “weaponized” what Jones said about Sandy Hook and “convinced them that Alex Jones was responsible for their grief.”
Jones was the only person to testify in his own defense. His lawyer asked him if he now understood that it was ‘absolutely irresponsible’ to push the false claims that the massacre did not take place and that no one died.
Jones said yes, but added, “They (the media) won’t let me take it back.”
He also complained of being “typed as someone who talks about Sandy Hook, makes money with Sandy Hook, is obsessed with Sandy Hook”.
Under scathing cross-examination by attorney Mark Bankston, Jones admitted his history of raising conspiracy allegations regarding other Oklahoma City mass tragedies. and Boston Marathon mass shooting attacks in Las Vegas and parkFlorida.
Bankston then attacked Jones’ credibility, showing a video clip of Infowars from last week when a host – not Jones – claimed the trial had been rigged and presented a photo of the judge in flames. Then came another clip of Jones asking if the jury had been selected from a group of people “who don’t know what planet” they live on. Jones said he didn’t mean that part literally.
Bankston said Jones failed to comply with court orders to provide pre-trial evidence gathering texts and emails. Jones said, “I don’t use email,” then was shown an excerpt from another source from his email address. He replied, “I had to dictate that.”
At one point, Bankston informed Jones that his attorneys had mistakenly sent Bankston the past two years’ text messages from Jones’ cell phone.
The attorney also showed the court an email from an Infowars sales executive telling Jones that the company made $800,000 gross selling its products in a single day, which would amount to nearly $300 million in a year. Jones said it was the company’s best selling day.
Jones’ testimony came a day after Heslin and Lewis told the courtroom in Austin, where Jones and his companies are based, that Jones and the bogus hoax claims he and Infowars made their lives a “living hell” of death threats, online abuse and harassment.
They led a busy day of testimony on Tuesday that included the judge chastising the pompous Jones for not being truthful with some of what he said under oath.
In a riveting exchange, Lewis spoke directly to Jones, who was seated about 10 feet away. Earlier today, Jones appeared on his broadcast program telling his audience that Heslin was “slow” and manipulated by bad people.
At one point, Lewis asked Jones, “Do you think I’m an actor?”
“No, I don’t think you’re an actor,” Jones replied before the judge urged him to shut up until he was called to testify.
Heslin told the jury that he held his son with a bullet hole in his head, even describing the extent of the damage done to his son’s body. A key segment of the case is a 2017 Infowars show that said Heslin wasn’t holding his son.
The jury was shown a school photo of a smiling Jesse taken two weeks before he was killed. The parents did not receive the photo until after the shooting. They described how Jesse was known to tell his classmates to “Run!” which probably saved lives.
Jones first spoke later on Tuesday. At one point, the judge dismissed the jury from the courtroom and sharply reprimanded Jones for telling the jury that he had complied with the pre-trial evidence collection even though he did not. had not done and that he was bankrupt, which has not been determined. Plaintiffs’ attorneys were furious that Jones mentioned he was bankrupt, which they say will taint the jury’s decisions on damages.
“This is not your show,” judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Jones. “Your beliefs don’t make something true. You are under oath.
Courts in Texas and Connecticut have already found Jones liable for libel for his portrayal of the Sandy Hook Massacre as a hoax involving actors aimed at increasing gun control.
What is at stake in the lawsuit in Texas is how much Jones will pay. Jurors will consider damages in two stages. Once they have determined whether Jones should pay the parents compensation for defamation and emotional distress, they must then decide whether he should also pay punitive damages. This part will involve a separate mini-trial involving Jones and financial experts testifying about his and his company’s net worth.
Jones has previously attempted to financially protect Free Speech Systems. The company, which is the parent company of Infowars, has filed for federal bankruptcy protection Last week. The Sandy Hook families sued Jones separately for his financial claims, arguing that the company is trying to shield millions belonging to Jones and his family through shell entities.
Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.
For more on AP’s coverage of school shootings: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings