HARTFORD, Conn. — A month after losing a nearly $50 million verdict, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is on trial for a second time for calling Sandy Hook Elementary School a hoax and causing emotional and psychological harm to several of the victims’ families.
A six-member jury with several deputies in Connecticut will begin hearing evidence on Tuesday about how much Jones will have to pay the families, as he has already been held liable for damages to them. The process is expected to take approximately four weeks.
Last month, a Texas Jones jury ordered $49.3 million to be paid to the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, one of 26 students and teachers killed in the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Jones’ lawyer has said an appeal is planned.
The Connecticut case has the potential for a higher price as it involves three lawsuits — which have been consolidated — filed by 15 plaintiffs, including the relatives of nine of the victims and a former FBI agent who responded to the school shooting.
Jones, who runs his web show and Infowars brand in Austin, Texas, is also facing a third trial over the hoax conspiracy in another pending lawsuit by Sandy Hook parents in Texas.
Here’s a look at the upcoming trial in Waterbury, Connecticut, about 18 miles northeast of Newtown. Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, is also a defendant.
WHY ARE THE SANDY HOOK FAMILIES AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM JONES?
The families and former FBI agent William Aldenberg say they were personally confronted and harassed by Jones’ followers over the hoax conspiracy. They also say they have received death threats and have been subject to abusive comments on social media.
Some prosecutors say strangers videotaped them and their surviving children. And some families have moved out of Newtown to avoid threats and intimidation.
“I can’t even describe the past nine and a half years, the living hell that I and others have had to endure because of Alex Jones’ recklessness and negligence,” Neil Heslin, Jesse Lewis’s father, testified at the trial in Texas. .
The Connecticut lawsuit alleges defamation, willful infliction of emotional distress and violations of the unfair trade law. The families claim that when Jones spoke about Sandy Hook, he boosted his audience and brought in more profits from selling supplements, clothing, and other items.
The families have not asked for a specific amount of damages, some of which may be limited by state laws. However, there are no damage limits under the Unfair Commercial Practices Act.
In all Connecticut and Texas cases, Jones and his attorneys repeatedly failed to deliver the documents to the families’ attorneys as required. In response, judges handed down one of the toughest sanctions in the civil law world—they found Jones liable for damages without trial by default.
WHAT DOES ALEX JONES SAY?
Contrary to what he said on his show years after the shooting, Jones now says he believes the massacre was real. But he continues to say his comments about the shooting were a hoax involving crisis actors to encourage gun control efforts were protected by free speech.
During a statement in the case in April, a rebellious Jones insisted he was not responsible for the suffering Sandy Hook’s parents say they endured because of his words.
He has also said the judges’ standard rulings against him – holding him liable without trial – were unfair and suggested they were part of a conspiracy to bankrupt him and silence him.
“If questioning public events and free speech is banned because it could hurt someone’s feelings, we’re not in America anymore,” he said in the statement. “They can change channels. They can come out and say I’m wrong. They have free speech.”
However, during the Texas trial, Jones testified that he now realizes that what he said was irresponsible, hurt people’s feelings, and he apologized.
WHAT IS EXPECTED IN THE PROCESS?
Judge Barbara Bellis, who found Jones liable for damages, will oversee the trial. She is the same judge who oversaw the Sandy Hook family’s lawsuit against gunsmith Remington, who made the Bushmaster rifle used in the school shooting. In February, Remington agreed to settle the lawsuit for $73 million.
The trial is expected to be similar to that in Texas, with victims’ relatives testifying about the pain and fear the hoax conspiracy has caused them and medical professionals answering questions about the family members’ mental health and diagnoses.
Jones will testify as well, his attorney, Norman Pattis, said.
“He looks forward to putting this process behind him; it’s been a long and costly distraction,” Pattis wrote in an email to The The Bharat Express News.
Evidence about Jones’ finances is also expected to be presented to the jury.
Jones testified at the Texas trial that any prize over $2 million would “sink us,” and he urged his web show viewers to buy his merchandise to keep it afloat and fight the lawsuits. .
But an economist testified that Jones and his company were worth up to $270 million. Jones faces another lawsuit in Texas over allegations that he hid millions of dollars in assets after families of Sandy Hook victims began suing him.