By Jack Queen (Reuters) -Alex Jones lashed out at critics in his first day on the witness stand, briefly halting a trial to determine how much the U.S. conspiracy theorist owes families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting for claiming the massacre was a hoax. The defamation trial in Waterbury, Connecticut, concerns […]
Alex Jones mocks critics at trial over Sandy Hook hoax claims
By Jack Queen
(Reuters) -Alex Jones lashed out at critics in his first day on the witness stand, briefly halting a trial to determine how much the U.S. conspiracy theorist owes families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting for claiming the massacre was a hoax.
The defamation trial in Waterbury, Connecticut, concerns only how much Jones and the parent of his Infowars site must pay in damages for spreading false claims that the U.S. government staged the killing of 20 children and six staff members as a pretext for seizing guns.
Tensions flared after the plaintiff’s lawyer, Christopher Mattei, played a video clip of Jones’ webcast showing him praising his followers for placing Infowars stickers around the Connecticut courthouse during trial.
Jones responded by referring to unspecified, purportedly destructive protests before suggesting that conservatives were being unfairly targeted.
“Conservatives put up stickers and we’re bad, I know, we all need to go to prison,” he said in a mocking tone.
His testimony prompted Judge Barbara Bellis to briefly dismiss jurors and discuss with lawyers how to contain Jones on the stand.
Jones had been confronted with evidence that his followers had harassed families of children killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
This included footage aired on Infowars of a former contributor hounding Newtown officials as they left a hearing over a public records request by Sandy Hook deniers.
Mattei also showed a clip of Jones praising and offering a job to a man who interrupted a Super Bowl press conference to shout conspiracy theories about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
The man, Matthew Mills, was arrested a year later after confronting Sandy Hook families at a memorial, Mattei said.
Jones also acknowledged calling Bellis a “tyrant” after Mattei displayed an image posted on Infowars depicting Bellis with red lasers shooting from her eyes. He said he was not responsible for the post.
Bellis has largely barred discussion of politics and conspiracy theories at the trial.
Jones is also not permitted to dispute his liability for damages, after Bellis issued a default judgment last year because he repeatedly failed to comply with court orders.
Jurors must decide only what Jones and Infowars’ parent Free Speech Systems must pay the plaintiffs, who also include an FBI agent, for the pain and suffering they say he caused.
A Free Speech Systems representative testified last week that Infowars article views soared 49% in the year after the massacre, and other metrics skyrocketed later as Jones hosted Sandy Hook deniers on his shows.
The trial is taking place a month after the U.S. conspiracy theorist was hit with a $49.3 million verdict in a similar case in Texas, where Free Speech Systems is based.
Jones’ lawyers hope to void most of the payout, calling it excessive under Texas law.
(Reporting by Jack Queen in New York; Editing by Amy Stevens, Mark Porter and Richard Chang)