Trial begins for Alex Jones in Sandy Hook hoax case

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A month after losing a nearly $50 million verdict, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is scheduled to go on trial a second time for calling Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a hoax and causing emotional and psychological damage to several of the victims’ families.

A six-member jury with several alternates in Connecticut will begin hearing evidence Tuesday about how much Jones should pay the families, given that it has already been declared liable for damages to them The trial is expected to last about four weeks.

Last month, a Texas jury ordered Jones to pay $49.3 million to the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, one of 26 students and teachers killed in the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Jones’ attorney has said an appeal is planned.

The Connecticut case has the potential for a larger award because it involves three lawsuits, which have been consolidated, that were brought by 15 plaintiffs, including family members of eight of the victims and a former FBI agent who responded to the school shooting.

Jones, who runs his web show and Infowars brand in Austin, Texas, also faces a third trial for the deceptive conspiracy in another lawsuit pending from the Texas Sandy Hook parents.

Here’s a look at the upcoming trial in Waterbury, Connecticut, about 18 miles (29 kilometers) northeast of Newtown. Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, which has declared bankruptcyhe is also a defendant.

WHY ARE THE SANDY HOOK FAMILIES SUING JONES?

The families and former FBI agent William Aldenberg say they were confronted and harassed in person by Jones’s followers because of the deceptive conspiracy. They also say they have suffered death threats and have been the subject of abusive comments on social media.

Some of the plaintiffs say strangers recorded them and their surviving children. And some families have moved out of Newtown to avoid threats and harassment.

“I cannot even describe the last nine and a half years, the living hell that I and others have had to endure due to the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones,” Neil Heslin, the father of Jesse Lewis, testified during the trial in Texas. . .

The Connecticut lawsuit alleges defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violations of the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. The families claim that when Jones spoke about Sandy Hook, he increased his audience and made more money from the sale of supplements, clothing and other items.

The families have not asked for any specific amount of damages, some of which may be limited by state law. However, there are no damage limits under the Unfair Trade Practices Act.

In all of the Connecticut and Texas cases, Jones and his attorneys repeatedly failed to turn over the records to the families’ attorneys. In response, the judges handed down one of the harshest penalties in the civil legal world: They found Jones liable for default damages without trial.

WHAT DOES ALEX JONES SAY?

Contrary to what he said on his show for years after the shooting, Jones now says he believes the massacre was real. But he goes on to say that his comments that the shooting was a hoax involving crisis actors to encourage gun control efforts were protected by free speech rights.

During a deposition in the case in April, a defiant Jones insisted he was not responsible for the suffering the Sandy Hook parents say they endured because of his words.

He has also said the judges’ default rulings against him, which found him liable without trial, were unfair and suggested they were part of a conspiracy to put him out of business and silence him.

“If questioning public events and free speech is prohibited because it might hurt someone’s feelings, we are no longer in America,” he said in the statement. “They can change the channel. They can come out and say I’m wrong. They have freedom of expression.”

At the Texas trial, however, Jones testified that he now realizes what he said was irresponsible, hurt people’s feelings, and apologized.

WHAT IS EXPECTED AT THE TRIAL?

Judge Barbara Bellis, who found Jones liable for damages, will oversee the trial. She is the same judge who oversaw the Sandy Hook families’ lawsuit against gunmaker Remington, which made the Bushmaster rifle used in the school shooting. In February, Remington agreed to settle the lawsuit for $73 million.

The trial is expected to be similar to the one in Texas, with relatives of the victims testifying about the pain and anguish caused by the false conspiracy and medical professionals answering questions about the relatives’ mental health and diagnoses.

Jones will also testify, said his attorney, Norman Pattis.

“He is anxious to put this trial behind him; it has been a long and expensive distraction,” Pattis wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Evidence about Jones’s finances is also expected to be presented to the jury.

Jones testified at the Texas trial that any prize over $2 million would “sink us down,” and he urged viewers of his web show to buy his merchandise to help him stay on the air and fight lawsuits.

But an economist testified that Jones and his company were worth as much as $270 million. Jones faces another lawsuit in Texas for allegations that he hid millions of dollars in assets after families of Sandy Hook victims began taking him to court.

___

This story has been corrected to show that the relatives of eight victims, not nine, are suing Jones.

Leave a Comment