Sandy Hook parents in Connecticut finally get to see Alex Jones on the witness stand

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones took a stand in court Thursday in Connecticut, in a courtroom about 20 miles from the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, which he long dismissed as a hoax on his popular Infowars show.

More than a dozen family members of some of the 20 children and six educators killed in the shooting also turned up to observe his testimony in Waterbury Superior Court.

Jones had portrayed the Sandy Hook shooting as staged by crisis actors as part of gun control efforts.

He held a press conference outside the courthouse on Wednesday and, as he did on his Infowars show, called the proceedings a “distortion of justice.” On his way into the courthouse Thursday, he made similar comments, noting that he may invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and not answer some questions.

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“It’s not really a process,” he said. “This is a show trial, a literal kangaroo court.”

Judge Barbara Bellis last year found Jones without a trial for damages to plaintiffs as punishment for what she described as repeated failure to turn over documents to her attorneys. Only the jury of six will decide how much Jones and Free Speech Systems, Infowars’ parent company, should pay families for slandering them and intentionally causing them emotional distress.

Bellis started the day by going over the issues with Jones that he couldn’t comment on. These included the right to free speech, the Sandy Hook families’ $73 million agreement earlier this year with gunmaker Remington — the company that made the Bushmaster rifle used to kill victims at Sandy Hook — or the percentage of Jones shows that discussed Sandy Hook.

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“This is not the appropriate forum for you to make that statement,” Bellis said. Jones indicated that he understood.

Bellis said in court she was prepared to handle any incendiary testimony from Jones, ignoring legal process if necessary.

But Thursday’s early testimony began with Jones agreeing that his website had portrayed Bellis as a “bully” online this week, with a manipulated image with lasers coming out of her eyes. Within the first hour there were frequent interruptions in testimony and the jury was excused twice as the respective legal teams argued over what could be said in open court.

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Relatives witness massacre, misinformation subject to charges

Meanwhile, during the trial, relatives of several victims have made emotional statements about being traumatized by people calling the shooting a fake, including confrontations in their homes and in public and messages including death and rape threats.

The plaintiffs include an FBI agent who responded to the shooting and family members of eight of the victims.

Jennifer Hensler wipes away tears as she testifies during Wednesday’s trial in Connecticut Superior Court. Hensler’s daughter, Avielle Rose Richman, was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. (Christian Abraham/Hearst Connecticut Media/The Associated Press)

Statements earlier in the week focused on website analytics data conducted by Infowars staff showing how sales of dietary supplements, groceries, clothing and other items were soaring around the time Jones spoke about the Sandy Hook shooting.

Evidence, including internal Infowars emails and affidavits, also shows disagreements within the company over the dissemination of the hoax lies.

Jones’ attorney Norman Pattis is calling for a cap on any damages and accuses the victims’ families of exaggerating the harm the lies have caused them. Relatives of those killed have said they remain fearful for their safety because of what the scammers have done and may do.

Jennifer Hensel, whose six-year-old daughter Avielle Richman was among those killed, testified Wednesday that she is still monitoring her surroundings and even checking the back seat of her car for safety reasons. She said she is trying to protect her two children, ages seven and five, from the prank lies. One juror cried during her testimony.

“They are so young,” she said of her children. “Your innocence is so beautiful right now. And eventually there will be a horde of people out there who could hurt them.”

Expensive Texas Judgment

Jones has been found liable in two similar lawsuits over the hoax lies in his hometown of Austin, Texas, where a jury in one of the trials last month ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the children killed, despite state law prohibiting the limit the damage he ultimately pays.

A third trial in Texas is scheduled to begin later this year.

When Jones testified under oath before the Texas jury last month, he toned down his rhetoric. He said he realized the prank lies were irresponsible and the school shooting was “100 percent real.”

“I unwittingly participated in things that hurt these people’s feelings, and I’m sorry for that,” Jones testified.

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Growing up, graduate student Sarah believed in the literal interpretation of the Bible. Born into a devout evangelical Christian community, she draws on her religious past to understand the heartfelt beliefs people embrace in conspiracy theories — from PizzaGate to the “stolen” 2020 US election.

Removed from social media platforms

Jones has admitted to making conspiracy claims about other mass tragedies, from the Oklahoma City bombings and Boston Marathon to the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Fla. Child trafficking, the so-called Pizzagate case, led to a disturbing shooting incident led.

Jones also got into politics on his show. He promoted stolen electoral claims after Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and before the Capitol riot in Washington, DC.

“I don’t know how this is all going to end, but if you’re going to fight, you better believe you’ve got one,” Jones said in widely shared video at a rally in Washington Jan. 5.

Then-candidate Trump said at the conclusion of a 2015 appearance on Jones’ show, “I just want to say in closing that your reputation is amazing.”

Since then, most major social media companies have removed Jones’ program, citing violations of platform rules.

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