Texas

Alex Jones admits Sandy Hook attack was ‘100% real’

AUSTIN, Texas – Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones testified Wednesday that he now realizes it was irresponsible of him to call the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a hoax and that he now believes it was “100 percent real.”

Speaking a day after the parents of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the 2012 attack testified about the anguish, death threats and harassment they suffered because of what Jones trumpeted on his media platforms, the Infowars host told the Texan courtroom that he definitely believes the assault happened.

“Especially after meeting the parents. It’s 100 percent real,” Jones said during the trial to determine how much he and his media company Free Speech Systems owe for defamation of Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis. Their son Jesse Lewis was among the 20 students and six teachers killed in the attack in Newtown, Connecticut, the deadliest school shooting in American history.

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But Heslin and Lewis said Tuesday that an apology would not be enough and that Jones should be held accountable for repeatedly spreading lies about the attack. They are seeking at least $150 million in the trial, which was held to determine how much Jones and his media company Free Speech Systems should pay for defaming Heslin and Lewis.

Jones, who framed the case against him as an attack on his First Amendment rights, told the jury that any award above $2 million “is going to sink us,” but added, “I think it’s appropriate for whatever you decide what you want to do .”

Testimony in the trial, now in its second week, ended around noon and closing arguments were expected to begin Wednesday afternoon.

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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 push false claims that the massacre did not take place and that no one died.

Jones said he did, but added: “They (the media) won’t let me take it back.”

He also complained that he was “typecast as someone who runs around talking about Sandy Hook, makes money off Sandy Hook, is obsessed with Sandy Hook.”

Under testy cross-examination by attorney Mark Bankston, Jones acknowledged his history of raising conspiracy claims regarding other mass tragedies, from the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings to the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida.

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Bankston then went after Jones’ credibility, showing an Infowars video clip from last week when a host — not Jones — claimed the trial was rigged and included a photo of the judge on fire. Then came another clip of Jones asking if the jury was 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 comply with court orders to provide text messages and emails to gather evidence before the trial. Jones said, “I don’t use email,” then was shown one collected from another source that came from his email address. He replied, “I must have dictated it.”

At one point, Bankston informed Jones that his attorneys had mistakenly sent Bankston text messages for the past two years from Jones’ cell phone.

The lawyer also showed the court an email from an Infowars business officer who informed Jones that the company had grossed $800,000 from the sale of its products in one day, which would amount to nearly $300 million in a year. Jones said it was the company’s best day in sales.

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Jones’ testimony came a day after Heslin and Lewis said in a courtroom in Austin, where Jones and his companies are based, that Jones and the false, fraudulent claims he and Infowars were pushing had made their lives a “living hell” with death threats. online abuse and harassment.

They testified Tuesday in which the judge scolded the bombastic Jones for not telling the truth about some of what he said under oath.

In a fascinating conversation, Lewis addressed Jones directly, who was sitting about 10 feet away. Earlier that day, Jones was on his show telling his audience that Heslin was “slow” and being manipulated by bad people.

At one point, Lewis asked Jones, “Do you think I’m an actor?”

“No, I don’t think you’re an actor,” Jones replied, before the judge advised him to remain silent until called to testify.

Heslin told the jury that he held his son with a bullet hole in his head, even describing the extent of the damage to his son’s body. A key segment of the case is a 2017 Infowars broadcast that says Heslin did not hold his son.

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The jury was shown a school photo of a smiling Jesse taken two weeks before he was killed. The parents received the photo only after the shooting. They describe how Jesse was famous for telling his classmates to “run!” which probably saved lives.

Jones initially took the stand later Tuesday. At one point, the judge kicked the jurors out of the courtroom and harshly berated Jones for telling the jury that he had complied with the collection of evidence when he had not, and that he was bankrupt, which was not established. Plaintiffs’ attorneys were furious at Jones’ mention that he was bankrupt, which they feared would taint the jury’s decisions on damages.

“This is not your show,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Jones. “Your beliefs do not make something true. You are under oath.

Last September, the judge admonished Jones in his ruling for failing to hand over documents requested by Sandy Hook families. A Connecticut court issued a similar default judgment against Jones on the same grounds in a separate lawsuit filed by other Sandy Hook parents.

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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. A jury will then decide whether Jones and his company will pay punitive damages.

Jones has already tried to financially protect Free Speech Systems. The company, which is the parent company of Infowars, filed for federal bankruptcy protection last week. The Sandy Hook families separately sued Jones over his financial claims, alleging the company was trying to protect millions owned by Jones and his family through shell entities.

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Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.

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For more from AP on school shootings: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

Alex Jones admits Sandy Hook attack was ‘100% real’

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