Austin, Texas — Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones testified Wednesday that he now realizes that it was irresponsible for him to assert that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a hoax and that he now believes it was “100% true.”
Speaking a day after the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the 2012 attack testified about the suffering, death threats and harassment they suffered because of what Jones has trumpeted on his media platforms, the Infowars host said with a courtroom in Texas that he definitely thinks the attack happened.
“Especially since I met the parents. It’s 100% true,” Jones said at trial to find out how much he and his media company, Free Speech Systems, owe for covering Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis. Her son Jesse Lewis was among the 20 students and six educators killed in the attack in Newtown, Connecticut, which was the deadliest school shooting in American history.
But Heslin and Lewis said Tuesday that an apology is not enough and that Jones must be held accountable for repeatedly spreading lies about the attack. They are seeking at least $150 million in the trial, which was held to determine how much Jones and his media company, Free Speech Systems, must pay for defaming Heslin and Lewis.
Jones – who characterized 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: “Ï I think it’s appropriate for whatever you decide what you want to do. .”
Testimony in the trial, which is in its second week, concluded around midday on Wednesday.
During closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, Jones’ attorney, Andino Reynal, said the plaintiffs did not prove that his client’s actions and words actually harmed Heslin and Lewis. He said it’s fair to conclude 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 attorney asked him if he now realizes that it was “totally irresponsible” to push the false claims that the massacre did not happen and that no one died.
Jones said he does, but added, “They (the media) won’t let me take it back.”
He also complained that it has been “printed because somebody who runs around talking about Sandy Hook, who makes money from Sandy Hook, is obsessed with Sandy Hook.”
Under relentless cross-examination from attorney Mark Bankston, Jones acknowledged his history of raising conspiracy claims in connection with other mass tragedies, from the Marathon bombings in Oklahoma City and Boston to mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida.
Bankston then went after Jones’ credibility, showing an Infowars video clip from last week in which a host – not Jones – claimed the trial was rigged and showed a photo of the judge in flames. Then came another clip of Jones asking if the jury was chosen 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 did not comply with court orders to provide text messages and emails for pretrial evidence gathering. Jones said, “I don’t use email,” then was shown one collected from another source that came from his email address. He replied: “I must have ordered that.”
At one point, Bankston informed Jones that his attorneys had mistakenly sent Bankston the last two years of texts from Jones’ cell phone.
The attorney also showed the court an email from an Infowars business officer informing Jones that the company had earned $800,000 gross from selling its products in one day, which equated to nearly $300 million a year. Jones said that was the company’s best sales 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 falsehood he claims he and Infowars have made a “living hell” of death threats, a month -online use and harassment.
They led a day of accused testimony on Tuesday that included the judge scolding the bombastic Jones for not being true to some of the things he said under oath.
In a moving exchange, Lewis spoke directly to Jones, who was sitting about 10 feet away. Earlier that day, Jones was on his radio show telling his listeners that Heslin is “slow” and being manipulated by bad people.
At one point, Lewis asked Jones: “Do you think I’m an actor?”
“I don’t think you’re an actor,” Jones replied before the judge instructed him to remain silent until he was called to testify.
Heslin told the jury about sustaining a bullet hole through his head, even describing the extent of the damage to his son’s body. Central to the case is the 2017 Infowars broadcast that said Heslin did not possess his son.
The jury was shown a school picture of a smiling Jesse taken two weeks before he was killed. The parents didn’t get the photo until after the shooting. They described how Jesse was known for asking his class to “run!” which probably saved people.
Jones first took the stand later Tuesday. At one point the judge escorted the jury out of the courtroom and reprimanded Jones for telling the jury he was complying with pre-trial evidence gathering even though he didn’t and is bankrupt, which he is not. decision made. Plaintiffs’ attorneys were furious with Jones when he said he’s bankrupt, which they worry will sway the jury’s decisions on damages.
“This is not your show,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Jones. “Your beliefs do not make something true. You are under oath.”
Courts in Texas and Connecticut have already found Jones liable for defamation because of his portrayal of the Sandy Hook massacre as a hoax in which actors aimed to increase gun control.
At stake in the Texas trial is how much Jones will pay. The jurors will consider damages in two stages. Once they decide whether Jones should pay the parents compensation for defamation and emotional distress, they must then decide whether he must also pay punitive damages. That part will involve a separate mini-trial in which Jones and financial experts will testify about his net worth and net worth.
Jones has already tried to financially protect Free Speech Systems. The company, which is the parent company of Infowars, filed for federal bankruptcy protection last week. Sandy Hook families have sued Jones separately over his financial claims, arguing that the company is trying to protect the millions owned by Jones and his family through shell entities.
Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.
For more of the AP’s coverage of school shootings: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings