WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Alex Jones took the stand Thursday at his Connecticut defamation trial, acknowledging he had promoted the conspiracy theory that the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, but angrily refusing to keep apologizing for that.
More than a dozen relatives of the 26 shooting victims showed up to observe his often contentious testimony in Waterbury Superior Court.
Jones was found liable last year by default for damages to plaintiffs without a trial, for what the judge called his repeated failures to turn over documents to their lawyers. The six-member jury is now deciding how much Jones and Free Speech Systems should pay the families for defaming them and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
On Thursday, Jones admitted calling parents “crisis actors” and saying the shooting was “phony as a three-dollar bill.”
Plaintiff attorney Christopher Mattei accused Jones of putting targets on the parents’ backs, pointing to the family members in the courtroom and saying “these are real people.”
“Just like all the Iraqis you liberals killed and love,” Jones responded. “Just, you’re unbelievable. You switch on emotions, on-and-off when you want. You’re just ambulance chasing.”
“Why don’t you show a little respect?” Mattei shot back, as Jones’ lawyer, Norm Pattis, shouted objections and several family members shook their heads in apparent disbelief.
The exchange went on with Mattei pointing out that the families in the courtroom had “lost children, sisters, wives, moms.”
“Is this a struggle session?” said Jones, who in recent years has acknowledged the shooting was real. “Are we in China? I’ve already said I’m sorry hundreds of times and I’m done saying I’m sorry.”
After excusing the jury for the day, Judge Barbara Bellis admonished both sides, saying further outbursts would lead to a contempt hearing.
Bellis had begun the day by going over the topics that Jones could not mention in his testimony: free speech rights; the Sandy Hook families’ $73 million settlement this year with gun-maker Remington (the company made the Bushmaster rifle used to kill the victims at Sandy Hook); the percentage of Jones’ shows that discussed Sandy Hook; and whether he profited from those shows or a similar case in Texas.
“This is not the appropriate forum for you to offer that testimony,” Bellis said. Jones indicated that he understood.
But the jury had to be sent out of the courtroom several times while attorneys argued about the scope of Jones’ answers.
“You’re going to get your exercise today, for those of you who wear Fitbits,” the judge told jurors.
Earlier in the trial, family members of the victims have given often emotional testimony describing how they endured death threats, in-person harassment and abusive comments on social media. Some moved to avoid the abuse.
Pattis is arguing that any damages should be limited and accused the victims’ relatives of exaggerating the harm the lies caused them.
Jones, who is expected back on the stand Friday, made brief comments to reporters while leaving the courthouse.
“The First Amendment will prevail,” he said. “The American people will never be silenced.”