Alex Jones faces second trial over Sandy Hook hoax claims

A Connecticut jury began hearing arguments Tuesday in the trial of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to decide how much money to pay the families of eight Sandy Hook shooting victims and an FBI agent who responded to the December attack. from 2012.

It is the second trial for Jones, who was ordered by a Texas jury last month to pay nearly $50 million in compensatory damages to the parents of one of the murdered children for the suffering caused by their lies about the massacre. Jones was not in court on Tuesday.

The trial, stemming from a civil case Jones lost by default last year, is taking place in Waterbury, about 20 miles from Newtown, where a gunman killed 20 first graders and six educators.

Jones was found liable by Judge Barbara Bellis without a trial last year after he failed to provide documents to the families’ attorneys.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones tries to answer questions about his emails from Mark Bankston, attorney for Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, during the trial at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin on August 3, 2022.
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones during his trial at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas, on August 3.Briana Sanchez/Austin American-Statesman/Pool via AP

Before opening statements began, Bellis called out Jones’s legal team for what he described as their “astonishingly arrogant attitude” toward discovery. Bellis said that they “constantly engaged in dilatory and obstructive practices of discovery.” Jones’ attorneys did not release traffic data for his Infowars website.

Bellis told the jury that Jones has already been found liable for damages to the plaintiffs for repeatedly saying the shooting was a hoax on multiple platforms and claiming no one was killed in the shooting. Bellis explained to the six-member jury that his job is to decide how much Jones should pay the plaintiffs for defaming them.

During opening statements, Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the families, told the jury about Jones’s business model, saying he benefited from spreading “fear, anxiety and paranoia in his audience.” Mattei showed slides of traffic data from Infowars, including one showing that in December 2012, the month of the Sandy Hook shooting, the site attracted more than 4.6 million users and more than 24.9 million page views. . For years, Mattei told the jury, Jones has promoted lies on his radio shows and online, saying the Sandy Hook massacre was staged by crisis actors for the federal government as a pretext to take people’s guns away.

Mattei told the jury that the targets of Jones’s lies were “helpless.”

“They didn’t have the platform that Alex Jones had. They didn’t know who Alex Jones was,” Mattei said. “But he knew who they were. His audience knew who they were.”

The families of the victims and William Aldenberg, an FBI agent who responded to the Sandy Hook shooting, have said they have been harassed by people who believe Jones’ lies. Some have said they even received death threats.

Norm Pattis, an attorney for Jones, told the jury during his opening statement that his client was being scapegoated and treated like a “scapegoat.”

“The haters want to silence him,” Pattis said. “They hate him because he says outrageous things.”

Pattis accused the plaintiffs of “exaggerating the harm” Jones caused them, politicizing the proceedings, and said the claims for damages are exaggerated.

Aldenberg was the first witness to take the stand; he cried as he explained to the jury what he saw and heard on Dec. 14, 2012. The FBI agent was one of the first law enforcement officers to enter the classrooms where the children died.

Asked by Mattei if he saw any actors or “something fake” at Sandy Hook that day, Aldenberg struggled to regain his composure, replying, “No. It’s horrible. It’s horrible. It’s horrible.”

Aldenberg testified that what he has found most distressing is that “people want to say this didn’t happen” “to profit” from the lies and “destroy people’s lives.” She said that she was among members of the community who were harassed and targeted over conspiracy theories. She said that by 2016, she had contacted various agencies, including the FBI, for help with the stalking.

Aldenberg said he felt powerless against Jones and his Infowars brand.

He also recounted finding the body of Vicki Soto, a teacher who was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Her sister, Carlee Soto Parisi, was the second witness to testify.

Aldenberg was questioned by Jones’ attorney about when he sought help for the harassment he experienced.

During Soto Parisi’s testimony, an attorney for the plaintiffs showed a photo in court showing her crying on the phone the day her sister was murdered. The photo became the subject of conspiracy theories claiming it was fake and that she was an actress, which Soto Parisi testified she could not understand.

From there, he said, things “multiplied.” She said that she faced false accusations that she was a crisis actress and that both her sister and Sandy Hook were fake. Someone left a note on her door saying she needed to go to church, she said.

She said she frequently received threatening emails and messages on social media, some of which contained gun emojis, prompting her and her husband to speak to police. “We feared for our lives,” she said.

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