AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones testified Wednesday that he now understands that he was irresponsible in calling the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a hoax and that he now believes it was “100% real.”
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 Based on what Jones has trumpeted on his media platforms, the Infowars host said in a Texas courtroom that he definitely believes the attack happened.
“Especially since I met the parents. It’s 100% real,” Jones said at his trial to determine how much he and his media company Free Speech Systems owe for defaming Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis. Her son, Jesse Lewis, was among 20 students and six educators killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, attack, which was the deadliest school shooting in American history.
But Heslin and Lewis said Tuesday that an apology would not suffice and that Jones needed to be held accountable for repeatedly lying about the attack. They are aiming for at least $150 million.
Jones told the jury that any compensation over $2 million “is going to go down on us,” but added, “I think it’s appropriate for whatever you decide you want to do.”
Testimony ended around noon and closing arguments are expected to begin Wednesday afternoon.
Jones was the only person to testify in his own defense. His lawyer asked him if he now understood that it was “absolutely irresponsible” to spread the false claims that the massacre did not happen and no one died.
Jones said he does, but added, “They (the media) won’t let me take it back.”
He also complained that he was “typified as someone who goes around talking about Sandy Hook, makes money off Sandy Hook, is obsessed with Sandy Hook.”
Under scathing cross-examination by attorney Mark Bankston, Jones admitted that he had made conspiracy claims in the past relating to other Oklahoma City mass tragedies and Boston Marathon bombings to the mass shootings in Las Vegas and parklandFlorida.
Bankston then probed Jones’ credibility, showing an Infowars video clip from last week when a moderator – not Jones – claimed the trial had been rigged and included a photo of the judge on fire. Then came another clip in which Jones asked if the jury had been chosen from a group of people “who don’t know what planet” they live on. Jones said he didn’t mean that part literally.
Bankston said Jones failed to follow court orders to provide text messages and emails for court evidence gathering. Jones said, “I don’t use email,” then was shown one from another source that came from his email address. He replied, “I must have dictated that.”
At one point, Bankston informed Jones that his attorneys had mistakenly sent Bankston the texts from Jones’ cell phone for the past two years.
The attorney also showed the court an email from an Infowars executive informing Jones that the company grossed $800,000 from sales of its products in a single day, which translates to nearly $300 million in a year -dollars would matter. Jones said it was the company’s best day of sales.
Jones’ testimony came a day after Heslin and Lewis told the Austin courtroom, where Jones and his companies are based, that Jones and the false claims he and Infowars were making had made their lives a “living hell.” from death threats, online abuse and harassment.
They conducted a day of charged testimony on Tuesday, with the judge berating the bombastic Jones for not telling the truth with some of his testimonies under oath.
In a gripping exchange, Lewis spoke directly to Jones, who was seated about 10 feet away. Earlier that day, Jones was on his show telling his audience that Heslin was “slow” and manipulated by bad people.
At one point, Lewis Jones asked, “Do you think I’m an actor?”
“No, I don’t think you’re an actor,” Jones replied, before the judge warned him to be quiet until called to testify.
Heslin told jurors he held his son with a bullet hole through the head and even described the extent of the damage to his son’s body. A key segment of the case is a 2017 Infowars broadcast that said Heslin failed to hold his son.
The jury was shown a school photograph of a smiling Jesse taken two weeks before his death. The parents only received the photo after the shoot. They described how Jesse was known for telling classmates to “run!” which likely saved lives.
Jones first commented later Tuesday. At one point, the judge dismissed the jury from the courtroom and berated Jones for telling the jury he complied with the pretrial hearing of evidence when he had not, and that he was bankrupt, which has not yet been established. The plaintiffs’ attorneys were furious that Jones mentioned that he was bankrupt, which they believe will affect the jury’s decisions on damages.
“This isn’t your show,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Jones. “Your beliefs don’t make something true. They are under oath.”
Last September, in her default judgment, the judge reprimanded Jones for his failure to provide documents requested by the Sandy Hook families. A Connecticut court entered a similar default judgment against Jones for the same reasons in a separate lawsuit filed by other Sandy Hook parents.
At stake in the trial is 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 company pay punitive damages.
Jones has already attempted to protect Free Speech Systems financially. The company applied for federal bankruptcy protection last week. The Sandy Hook families have separately sued Jones over his financial claims, arguing that the company is attempting to protect millions of Jones and his family through shell companies.
Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.
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