Alex Jones makes 1st appearance outside Sandy Hook trial
A defiant Alex Jones showed up at a Connecticut courthouse Tuesday declaring his innocence despite already being found liable for spreading the lie that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a hoax.
A jury seated about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from Sandy Hook in Waterbury Superior Court has been hearing evidence for a week to determine how much Jones must pay the families of eight victims and an FBI agent who was among the first to respond to the shooting that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators.
Jones spent just a few minutes at the courthouse, arriving at about 9:30 a.m., accompanied by one of his attorneys and repeating declarations he made last week on his Infowars web show that the proceeding is nothing more than a “show trial.”
“This is a travesty of justice and this judge is a tyrant,” Jones said outside the courthouse. “This judge is ordering me to say that I’m guilty and to say that I’m a liar. None of that is true. I was not wrong about Sandy Hook on purpose. I questioned it.”
Jones left a short time later, indicating he would not be testifying on Tuesday.
Judge Barbara Bellis found Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, liable by default last year without a trial, as punishment for what she called his repeated failures to turn over documents to the Sandy Hook lawyers.
Jones has complained that he was found “guilty” without trials. There is no guilt in civil trials like this one in Connecticut, or one last month in Texas where a jury awarded nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the children killed in the shooting.
The judge “has now ordered me to not say I’m innocent and ordered me to say that I have not profited from Sandy Hook,” Jones said Tuesday. “That’s ordering me to perjure myself. I will not perjure myself under the orders of a judge.”
Jones is not being allowed to present defenses arguing he is not liable, including that the First Amendment gave him the right to say the shooting didn’t happen and raise questions about it.
The plaintiffs say Jones’ promotion of the hoax lie on his Infowars show led to the families being threatened and harassed by deniers of the shooting. They say they’ve endured death threats and in-person harassment, video recording by strangers and abusive comments on social media. Some families moved out of Newtown to avoid the harassment.
And they say while Jones talked about the shooting, sales of the dietary supplements, clothing, food and other items he hawks on his show surged. A representative for Free Speech Systems testified last week that she believed Jones and his company made at least $100 million in revenues since the school shooting.
On Tuesday, the jury heard testimony by Clint Watts, a former FBI agent and cybersecurity expert, who spoke about how the internet and social media are used by governments and organizations, including terrorist groups, to spread misinformation and call people to action. He also talked about how Jones stoked anger and fear on Infowars.
Watts said that by the end of 2012, around the time of the school shooting, Jones and Infowars had the infrastructure in place to have far-reaching influence: multiple websites, a large amount of content and a “massive” Infowars audience.
“To have 49 million users in any given year is a massive audience,” Watts said.
By the end of 2013, the Infowars website audience had ballooned to 73 million. Those numbers are from data compiled in Google Analytics reports run by Infowars employees and shown to the jury.
Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, showed Watts and the jury a video of some of Jones’ first comments about the school shooting, on the day it happened.
“They are going to come after our guns, look for mass shootings,” Jones said, referring to his conspiracy theory that mass shootings are staged to spur gun control. “They are coming. They are coming. They are coming.”
Jones adds: “They’re declaring war on the Second Amendment period.”
Jones doesn’t clearly define who “they” are.
Watts said he believed Jones was trying to spark anger and fear among his audience and create an us versus them narrative aimed at building his audience and increasing product sales.
Jones has painted the trials as a conspiracy by Democrats and the media to take away gun rights, put him out of business and silence him.
Jones, who has said over the past few years that he believes the shooting did happen, also bashed the Texas trial on his show. Under oath and facing a jury in Austin, he said he realized the hoax lies were irresponsible and hurt people’s feelings, and he was sorry for that.