Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has said he now understands that it was irresponsible of him to declare the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a hoax and that he now believes it was “100 percent real”.
Jones made the confession a day after the parents of a six-year-old boy who was killed in the attack testified about the suffering, death threats and harassment they endured because of what Jones has proclaimed on his media platforms.
“It was . . . especially since I met the parents. It’s 100 percent real,” Jones testified at his trial to determine how much he owes for defaming the parents of a six-year-old who was one of 20 students and six teachers killed in the 2012 attack on the school in Newtown, Connecticut.
The parents who sued Jones had said a day earlier that an apology would not be enough and that the Infowars host should be held responsible for repeatedly spreading falsehoods about the attack. They demand at least $150 million.
Closing arguments are expected to begin later Wednesday after more testimony from Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights.
Jones is the only person to testify in defense of himself and his media company Free Speech Systems. His lawyer asked him if he now understands that it was “absolutely irresponsible” to make false claims that the massacre did not take place and that no one died.
Jones said it did, but added: “They… [the media] don’t make me take it back.”
He also complained that he is “characterized as someone who runs around talking about Sandy Hook, makes money off Sandy Hook, is obsessed with Sandy Hook”.
Jones’ testimony came a day after Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis was killed in the attack, testified that Jones and the false hoax claims propagated by Jones and his Infowars website turned their lives into a ” living hell” of death threats, online abuse and intimidation.
They led a day of indicted testimony on Tuesday, including the judge scolding the bombastic Jones for not being truthful with some of what he said under oath.
In a poignant exchange, Lewis spoke directly to Jones, who was sitting about 10 feet away. On his broadcast earlier that day, Jones told his audience that Heslin is “slow” and manipulated by bad people.
“I am a mother first and foremost and I know you are a father. My son existed,” Lewis told Jones. “I’m not a deep state…I know you know that…And yet you’re going to leave this courthouse and say it one more time on your show.”
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 admonished him to be quiet until he was called to testify.
Heslin and Lewis belong to several Sandy Hook families that have filed several lawsuits alleging that Jones’ Sandy Hook hoax claims led to years of abuse by him and his followers.
Heslin and Lewis said they feared for their lives and were confronted with strangers at home and on the street. Heslin said his house and car were shot at. The jury heard a death threat sent to another Sandy Hook family via telephone.
“I can’t even describe the last nine and a half years, the hell that I and others have endured because of Alex Jones’ recklessness and negligence,” Heslin said.
Scarlett Lewis also described threatening emails that appeared to have exposed deep details of her personal life.
“It’s fear for your life,” Scarlett Lewis said. “You don’t know what they were going to do.”
Heslin said he didn’t know if the Sandy Hook hoax conspiracy theory came from Jones, but it was Jones who “lit the match and lit the fire” with an online platform and broadcast that reached millions worldwide.
“What was said about me and Sandy Hook is resonating around the world,” Heslin said. “As time went on, I really realized how dangerous it was.”
Jones skipped Heslin’s testimony on Tuesday morning while on his show — a move Heslin dismissed as “cowardly” — but arrived in court for some of Scarlett Lewis’s testimony. He was accompanied by several private guards.
“Today is very important to me and it has been a long time… to face Alex Jones for what he said and did to me. To restore my son’s honor and legacy,” Heslin said when Jones was not there .
Heslin told the jury about holding his son with a bullet hole through his head, even describing the extent of the damage to his son’s body. A key part of the case is a 2017 Infowars broadcast that said Heslin was not holding his son.
The jury was shown a school photo of a smiling Jesse, taken two weeks before he was murdered. The parents didn’t get the photo until after the shooting. They described how Jesse was known for telling classmates to “run!” who probably saved lives.
An apology from Jones wouldn’t be good enough, the parents said.
“Alex started this fight,” Heslin said, “and I will finish this fight.”
Jones later took the stand and was initially combative with the judge, who had asked him to answer his own attorney’s question. Jones testified that he had long wanted to apologize to prosecutors.
Later, the judge sent the jury out of the room, vigorously berating Jones for telling the jury that he complied with collecting pre-trial evidence even though he didn’t, and that he is bankrupt, which is not established. Prosecutors’ attorneys were outraged that Jones claimed he is bankrupt, which they say will affect the jury’s decisions on damages.
“This is not your show,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Jones. “Your beliefs don’t make something true. You are under oath.”
Last September, the judge admonished Jones in her default judgment for failing to provide the documents requested by the Sandy Hook families. A Connecticut court issued a similar default judgment against Jones for the same reasons in a separate lawsuit filed by other Sandy Hook parents.
At stake in the process is how much Jones will pay. The parents have asked the jury to award $150 million in compensation for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury will then consider whether Jones and his company will pay punitive damages.
Jones has already tried to financially protect Free Speech Systems. The company filed for federal bankruptcy protection last week. Sandy Hook families have sued Jones separately over his financial claims, arguing that the company is trying to protect millions of Jones and his family’s property through empty entities.