Sandy Hook Witnesses Testify About Alex Jones’ False Claims

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — The sister of a teacher killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre and an FBI agent who responded to the school shooting were overcome with emotion Tuesday as they described how been being accused of being crisis actors. by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and others.

Carlee Soto Parisi and FBI agent William Aldenberg were the first witnesses to testify as a Connecticut jury began hearing evidence in a trial to decide how much money Jones owes for spreading the lie that the 2012 Newtown mass shooting that killed 20 first grade students and six educators did not happen

Soto Parisi said she has been harassed, both in Connecticut and after moving to North Carolina, by those who believe she was acting out. Some of the hoax’s believers went online and posted photos of grieving women, including an Associated Press photo of a distraught Soto Parisi outside Sandy Hook Elementary School after the shooting, saying they were the same actor.

“I frequently received threatening emails and messages on all social media,” she testified, crying at times. “And it got to a point where they would use the gun emoji. And I talked to cops in Connecticut and my husband ended up having to talk to cops in North Carolina, because we were in fear for our lives.”

Aldenberg also broke down when he described being one of the first law enforcement officers to enter the two classrooms where 20 children were killed. He described seeing the phone next to Vicki Soto’s body light up with messages from those trying to reach her.

“What you saw in that school was fake?” asked attorney Christopher Mattei, counsel for the plaintiffs.

“No,” Aldenberg said. “It’s terrible. It’s terrible.”

He also testified about how he and others in the community and law enforcement were subjected to threats and conspiracy theories, including one that claimed he was an actor also claiming to be the father of a victim.

“It’s one of the worst things that’s ever happened, if not the worst thing that’s ever happened here, what happened to them,” Aldenberg said. “And people want to say that this didn’t happen? And then they want to get rich off of it? That’s the worst part.

The trial in Waterbury, less than 20 miles from Newtown, was attended by more than a dozen relatives of the victims, including David Wheeler, the father who conspiracy theorists say was the same person as Aldenberg. Wheeler nodded as Aldenberg apologized for what Wheeler had to endure because of his resemblance.

Jones did not attend the trial on Tuesday. He is expected in court next week. Jones and his Infowars brand are based in Austin, Texas.

The Sandy Hook and Aldenberg families say they have been confronted and harassed for years by people who believed Jones’ false claim that the shooting was staged by crisis actors as part of a plot to take people’s guns away.

Some say strangers recorded them and their surviving children. They have also suffered death threats and have been the subject of abusive comments on social media. And some families have moved out of Newtown to avoid harassment. They accuse Jones of causing them emotional and psychological harm.

“You know, you can say what you want about me, I don’t care,” Aldenberg said. “Just say what you want. I’m a big fucking boy. I can not stand it. But then they want to make a profit, they want to make millions and millions of dollars. They want to destroy people’s lives. His children were massacred. I saw it myself, and now you have to sit here and listen to me say this.”

It is the second such trial for Jones, who was ordered by a Texas jury last month. pay almost 50 million dollars the parents of one of the murdered children. Jones was not at the trial Tuesday and is expected to attend next week.

A jury of three men and three women along with several alternates will decide how much Jones should pay the families of eight victims and Aldenberg. Judge Barbara Bellis found Jones liable for damages without a trial last year after she failed to serve the documents with the families’ attorneys.

The judge also sanctioned Jones on Tuesday for failing to provide analytics related to his website and the popularity of his show. She told her attorneys that because of her failure, she will not be allowed to argue that she did not benefit from her comments about Sandy Hook.

In opening statements, Mattei described Jones as a bully and his own lawyer as a crackpot in a town square who should be ignored.

Mattei showed the jury data indicating how Jones’s viewership increased as he spread lies about the shooting. He also showed them photos and videos of things Jones had said and told the panel that they already had the tools from their own life experiences to decide what to do in this case.

“What your parents taught you, what your grandparents taught you to know the difference between right and wrong, to know the difference between the truth and a horrible lie, to know the importance of standing up to bullies when they take advantage of defenseless people. and capitalize on them and know that unless you stop a stalker, a stalker will never stop,” he said. “And when it comes to stopping Alex Jones, that’s going to be the most important job you do.”

Jones’ attorney, Norm Pattis, argued that his client has espoused a number of conspiracy theories over the years, something he has a constitutional right to do.

“At what point do we consider him a wacko in the town park, a person we can walk away from if we want to?” she asked.

Pattis told the jury that while Jones is responsible for the damages, any compensation should be minimal and argued that the families were exaggerating the damage they say Jones caused them.

On his Infowars web show on Tuesday, Jones portrayed himself as a victim of unfair trials.

“How am I handling it? We are in war. This is total tyranny,” he said. “I’ll tell you this, we can appeal this for years. We can beat this.”

The trial is expected to last about a month and feature testimony from more family members of the victims. Jones will also testify, Pattis said.

Jones now says he believes the shooting was real. At the Texas trial, he testified that he realizes what he said was irresponsible, hurt people’s feelings, and apologized. However, he continues to insist that his comments protected free speech. He sees the lawsuits as efforts to silence him and put him out of business.

Jones’ attorneys say he intends to appeal the judgment against him in Texas. Jones will also face a third trial in Texas involving the parents of another murdered child.

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Associated Press writer Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report from Hartford, Connecticut.

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