HARTFORD, Connecticut — A month after losing a nearly $50 million verdict, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is set to stand trial for a second time for calling Sandy Hook Elementary School a prank and causing emotional damage and psychological damage to several families of the victims.
A six-member jury with several alternates in Connecticut will begin hearing evidence Tuesday about how much Jones should pay the families, since he has already been found liable for the damages caused to them. The trial is expected to last about four weeks.
Last month, a Texas jury ordered Jones to pay $49.3 million to the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, one of 26 students and teachers killed in the 2012 shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Jones’ attorney said an appeal is planned.
The Connecticut case has the potential for a bigger payoff as it involves three lawsuits – which have been consolidated – which were filed by 15 plaintiffs, including 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, also faces a third hoax conspiracy trial in another pending lawsuit brought by the parents of Sandy Hook in Texas.
Here’s a preview of the upcoming trial in Waterbury, Connecticut, about 18 miles northeast of Newtown. Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, which filed for bankruptcy protection, is also a defendant.
WHY ARE THE SANDY HOOK FAMILIES SUING JONES?
The families and former FBI agent William Aldenberg say they were confronted and harassed in person by Jones supporters over the hoax plot. They also say they have suffered death threats and been the subject of abusive comments on social media.
Some of the plaintiffs say strangers filmed them and their surviving children. And some families left Newtown to avoid threats and harassment.
“I can’t even describe the last nine and a half years, the living hell that I and others have had to endure because of the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones,” said Neil Heslin, father of Jesse Lewis, during the trial in Texas. .
The Connecticut lawsuit alleges defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the state’s unfair trade practices law. The families claim that when Jones talked about Sandy Hook, he grew his audience and made more money selling supplements, clothing and other items.
The families did not seek any specific amount of damages, some of which may be limited by state law. There is, however, no limit of damages under the Unfair Trade Practices Act.
In all of the Connecticut and Texas cases, Jones and his attorneys repeatedly failed to turn over required records to the families’ attorneys. In response, the judges handed down one of the toughest penalties in the civil law world — they found Jones liable for default damages without a trial.
WHAT DOES ALEX JONES SAY?
Contrary to what he said on his show for years after the shooting, Jones now says he believes the massacre was real. But he continues to say his comments that the shooting was a hoax involving crisis actors to encourage gun control efforts were protected by the right to free speech.
During a deposition in the case in April, a defiant Jones insisted he was not responsible for the pain Sandy Hook’s parents say they endured because of his words.
He also said the judges’ default rulings against him – finding him liable without a trial – were unfair and suggested they were part of a plot to bankrupt and silence him.
“If questioning public events and free speech is prohibited because it might hurt someone’s feelings, we are no longer in America,” he said during the deposition. “They can change the channel. They can come out and say I’m wrong. They have freedom of speech.
At the trial in Texas, however, Jones testified that he now realizes what he said was irresponsible, hurt people’s feelings, and he apologized.
WHAT IS EXPECTED AT TRIAL?
Judge Barbara Bellis, who found Jones liable for damages, will oversee the trial. She’s the same judge who oversaw the Sandy Hook families’ lawsuit against gunmaker Remington, which 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 the victims’ relatives testifying to the pain and anguish the conspiracy has caused them and medical professionals answering questions about the loved ones’ mental health and diagnoses.
Jones will also testify, his attorney, Norman Pattis, said.
“He is eager to put this trial behind him; it has been a long and costly distraction,” Pattis wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
Evidence about Jones’ finances is also expected to be presented to the jury.
Jones testified at the trial in Texas that any award over $2 million would ‘sink us’ and he urged viewers of his webcast to buy his merchandise to help him stay on the air and fight. against prosecution.
But an economist testified that Jones and his company were worth up to $270 million. Jones faces another lawsuit in Texas for hiding millions of dollars in assets after families of Sandy Hook victims began bringing him to justice.