AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones he asked Wednesday that he now realizes that it was irresponsible for him to declare that the Sandy Hook Elementary School hoax was a hoax and that he now believes it was “100% true.”
He was 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 endured. because of what Jones has trumpeted on his media platforms, the Infowars host told the Texas courtroom that he thinks for sure 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 was not enough and that Jones needed to be held accountable for repeatedly spreading lies about the attack. They are seeking at least $150 million.
Closing arguments are expected to begin later Wednesday after more testimony from Jones, who characterized the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment right.
Jones is the only person to testify in his own defense. His lawyer asked if he now realizes it was “completely irresponsible” to press 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.”
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.
“I am a mother first and I know you are a father. My son was there,” Lewis told Jones. “I don’t have the deep state … I know you know that … And yet you’re going to leave this courthouse and say it again on your show.”
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 and Lewis are among several Sandy Hook families who have filed several lawsuits alleging years of abuse by him and his followers as a result of false Sandy Hook claims pushed on them by Jones.
Both Heslin and Lewis said they fear for their lives and are faced with strangers at home and on the street. Heslin said his house and car were shot up. The jury heard a death threat sent via telephone message to another Sandy Hook family.
“I can’t even begin to describe the past nine and a half years, the living hell that I and others have endured because of Alex Jones’ recklessness and negligence,” Heslin said.
Scarlett Lewis also described threatening emails that appeared to reveal details about her personal life.
“It’s fear for your life,” said Scarlett Lewis. “You don’t know what they were going to do.”
Heslin said he did not know whether Jones originated the Sandy Hook hoax conspiracy theory, but that it was Jones who “lit the match and started the fire” with a platform and online broadcast that reached millions around the world.
“What’s been said about me and Sandy Hook itself is hanging around the world,” Heslin said. “As time went on, I truly realized how dangerous it was.”
Jones dismissed Heslin’s testimony Tuesday morning while on his show – a move Heslin dismissed as “cowardly” – but entered the courtroom as part of Scarlett Lewis’s testimony. He was accompanied by several private security guards.
“Today is very important for me and it’s been a long time coming … to face Alex Jones for what he said and did to me. To restore my son’s honor and legacy,” Heslin said in Jones’ absence.
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.
An apology from Jones would not be good enough, the parents said.
“Alex started this fight,” Heslin said, “and I will finish this fight.”
Jones then took the stand and was initially confrontational with the judge, who asked him to answer a question from his own attorney. Jones indicated that he had long wanted to apologize to the plaintiffs.
Later, the judge sent the jury out of the room and strongly scolded Jones for telling the jury that he was complying with the collection of pre-trial evidence even though he was not and that he is bankrupt, which has not been decided. 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.”
Last September, the judge admonished Jones in her default judgment for failing to hand over documents requested by the Sandy Hook families. A Connecticut court issued a similar default judgment against Jones for the same reasons in a separate lawsuit brought by other Sandy Hook parents.
The trial involves how much Jones will pay. The parents have asked the jury to award $150 million in damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury will then consider whether Jones and his company will pay punitive damages.
Jones has already tried to financially protect Free Speech Systems. The company 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