WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) – Alex Jones spoke out in his Connecticut libel trial Thursday, acknowledging he promoted the conspiracy theory that the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, but angrily refusing to continue to apologize for that.
More than a dozen relatives of the 26 shooting victims showed up to observe his often controversial testimony in Waterbury Superior Court, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from Newtown, where the shooting took place.
Jones was found liable last year by default for damages to the plaintiffs without a trial, for what the judge called his repeated failures to turn over documents to their attorneys. The six-member jury is now deciding how much Jones and Free Speech Systems, parent company of Jones’ Infowars media platforms, should pay the families for defaming them and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
On Thursday, Jones admitted calling the parents “crisis actors” on his show and saying the shoot was “fake as a three dollar bill”.
The plaintiff’s attorney, Christopher Mattei, accused Jones of putting targets on the parents’ backs, pointing fingers at family members in the courtroom and saying “these are real people”.
“Like all the Iraqis you liberals have killed and love,” Jones replied. “Just, you are amazing. You turn emotions on, turn them on and off whenever you want. You’re just an ambulance chase.
“Why don’t you show some respect?” Mattei fired back, as Jones’ attorney Norm Pattis shouted objections and several family members shook their heads in apparent disbelief.
The exchange continued with Mattei pointing out that the families in the courtroom had “lost children, sisters, wives, mothers”.
“Is this a wrestling session?” said Jones, who in recent years has acknowledged the shooting was real. “Are we in China? I’ve said I’m sorry hundreds of times before and I’m done saying I’m sorry.
After excusing the jury for the day, Judge Barbara Bellis chastised both sides, saying further outbursts would lead to a contempt hearing.
Bellis had started the day by reviewing the topics that Jones was unable to mention in his testimony: free speech rights; the Sandy Hook families’ $73 million settlement this year with gun maker Remington (the company made the Bushmaster rifle used to kill victims at Sandy Hook); the percentage of Jones shows that were about Sandy Hook; and whether he profited from those shows or a similar case in Texas.
“This is not the appropriate forum for you to offer this testimony,” Bellis said. Jones indicated that he understood.
But the jury had to be kicked out of the courtroom several times as attorneys argued over the scope of Jones’ answers.
“You’re going to do your exercise today, for those of you who wear Fitbits,” the judge told the jurors.
Earlier in the trial, family members of the victims gave often moving testimonies describing how they endured death threats, in-person harassment and abusive comments on social media. Some have moved to avoid abuse.
Jones’ shows had portrayed the Sandy Hook shooting as staged by crisis actors as part of gun control efforts.
The testimony also focused on website analytics data maintained by Infowars employees showing how its sales of dietary supplements, food, clothing and other items increased at the time Jones spoke about the Sandy Hook shooting.
Evidence, including emails and internal Infowars depositions, also shows dissent within the company over the hoax.
Pattis argues that any harm should be limited and has accused the victims’ relatives of exaggerating the harm the lies have caused them.
Jones has already been found liable by default in two similar Sandy Hook hoax lawsuits in his hometown of Austin, Texas, where a jury in one of the trials ordered Jones last month to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the children killed. A third trial in Texas is expected to begin later this year.
Jones was questioned Thursday on a page on his Infowars site that called the trial a “kangaroo court” and included a graphic showing the judge with lasers shooting from her eyes. He said the page was created by his staff, but called it a “good report”.
He was asked about ads on this page and other Sandy Hook content, as well as daily earnings reports. Jones said he couldn’t answer those questions, but denied seeing the lawsuit as a marketing opportunity.
Later, when asked about his fundraising and the items offered in his internet store, he made sure to give the URL where people could buy cryptocurrency to support his business.
“It will end as a clip from your show tonight,” Mattei said. “Do you advertise your cryptocurrency page? »
“I mean people want to keep us in the fight so hopefully whatever big whales give us money before we continue,” Jones said.
Jones, who is expected to return to the stand on Friday, made brief comments to reporters as he left the courthouse.
“The First Amendment will prevail,” he said. “The American people will never be silenced.”
Associated Press writer Michael Hill contributed to this Waterbury report.