WATERBURY, Conn. — Alex Jones took the stand Thursday at his libel trial in Connecticut, acknowledging that he had promoted the conspiracy theory that the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, but angrily refusing to apologize further for it.
More than a dozen relatives of the 26 shooting victims turned out to watch their often contentious testimony at Waterbury Superior Court, about 20 miles from Newtown, where the shooting took place.
Jones was found liable last year for failing to pay damages to the plaintiffs without a trial, for which the judge called his repeated failures to provide documents to his attorneys. The six-member jury is now deciding how much Jones and Free Speech Systems, parent of Jones’ Infowars media platforms, should pay the families for defaming them and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
On Thursday, Jones admitted to calling the parents “crisis actors” on his show and said the shooting was “fake as a three-dollar bill.”
Plaintiff attorney Christopher Mattei accused Jones of putting targets on the parents’ backs, pointing at family members in the courtroom and saying “these are real people.”
“Like all the Iraqis you liberals killed and loved,” Jones replied. “You are simply amazing. You turn emotions on, turn them on and off when you want. You’re just chasing an ambulance.”
“Why don’t you show some respect?” Mattei responded, as Jones’s attorney, Norm Pattis, shouted objections and several family members shook their heads in apparent disbelief.
The exchange continued with Mattei noting that families in the courtroom had “lost sons, 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 already said I’m sorry a hundred times and I’m done saying I’m sorry.”
After excusing the jury for the day, Judge Barbara Bellis admonished both sides, saying further outbursts would lead to a contempt hearing.
Bellis had started the day by going over the issues that Jones was unable to mention in his testimony: free speech rights; Sandy Hook families’ $73 million settlement this year with gun maker Remington (the company made the Bushmaster rifle used to kill Sandy Hook victims); the percentage of Jones shows that featured Sandy Hook; and whether he profited from those shows or from a similar case in Texas.
“This is not the appropriate forum for you to offer that testimony,” Bellis said. Jones indicated that he understood.
But the jury had to leave the courtroom multiple times as attorneys argued over the scope of Jones’ responses.
“Today you are going to exercise, for those of you who use Fitbits,” the judge told the jury.
Earlier in the trial, relatives of the victims often gave emotional testimony describing how they endured death threats, in-person harassment and abusive comments on social media. Some moved to avoid abuse.
Jones’s shows had portrayed the Sandy Hook shooting staged by crisis actors as part of gun control efforts.
Testimony has also focused on data from website analytics by Infowars employees showing how its sales of dietary supplements, food, clothing and other items skyrocketed around the time Jones spoke about the Sandy Hook shooting.
Evidence, including emails and internal statements from Infowars, also shows dissent within the company about pushing false lies.
Pattis argues that any damage must be limited and accused the families of the victims of exaggerating the damage caused by the lies.
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 murdered children. A third trial in Texas is expected to begin near the end of the year.
Jones was asked Thursday about a page on his Infowars site that described the trial as a “kangaroo court” and included a graphic showing the judge with lasers shooting from her eyes. He said the page was created by her staff, but called it a “good report.”
He was asked about the ads on that page and other Sandy Hook content, as well as daily earnings reports. Jones said he couldn’t answer those questions, but he denied seeing the trial as a marketing opportunity.
Later, when asked about his fundraising and the items offered in his online store, he made sure to give the URL where people could buy cryptocurrencies to support his company.
“That will end up as a clip on your show tonight,” Mattei said. “Are you advertising your cryptocurrency page?”
“I mean people want to keep us in the fight, so I’m hoping whoever the big whales are will give us money before they keep doing it,” 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 report from Waterbury.