Alex Jones admits Sandy Hook attack was ‘100% real’

AUSTIN, Texas — For years, far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of the bombing told millions of his followers that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax, that the children were not killed and that the parents were in trouble in an elaborate move. was an actor. Force gun control.

Under oath and facing a jury that could kill him with damages of $150 million or more for his false claims, Jones said Wednesday that he now realizes it was irresponsible and He believes that what happened in the deadliest school shooting in American history was “100% real.”

Jones’ public remorse came on the final day of testimony against him and his Austin-based media company Free Speech Systems in a two-week defamation trial brought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis. His son was a first grader who was one of 20 students and six teachers killed at the school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012.

“I unintentionally participated in things that hurt the feelings of these people,” said Jones, who has also described other mass tragedies ranging from the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings to the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida. also accepted the claims of conspiracy about. And I’m sorry for that.”

But apologizing isn’t enough for Heslin and Lewis. He said Jones and the media empire he controls and spreads his false claims must be held accountable.

“Alex starts this fight,” Heslin said, “and I’ll end this fight.”

Parents testified Tuesday about a decade of trauma that first led to their son’s murder and what followed: shots fired at a home, online and telephone threats, and street harassment by strangers , all inspired by Jones and his conspiracy theories. Spread to his followers through his website Infowars.

A forensic psychiatrist testified that the parent suffered from “complex post-traumatic stress disorder,” which results from ongoing trauma, as may be experienced by a soldier in war or a child abuse victim.

At one point in her testimony, Lewis looked directly at the acting Jones who was sitting barely 10 feet away.

Lewis told Jones, “It seems so unbelievable to me that we have to do this—that we have to punish you, punish you—so that you can stop lying.”

Courts in Texas and Connecticut have already found Jones liable for defamation for his portrayal of the Sandy Hook massacre, which involved actors intended to increase gun control.

Now, Heslin and Lewis are asking a jury in Austin for $150 million in compensation for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They will also ask the jury to assess additional punitive damages.

The jurors began considering damages on Wednesday. Once they determine that Jones must pay parental compensation for defamation and emotional distress, he must decide whether he will also need to pay punitive damages. That part will include a separate mini-trial with Jones and the economist to testify to him and his company’s net worth.

Jones’ attorney told the jury to limit damages to $8 — one dollar for every compensation fee — and Jones himself said any award over $2 million “would overwhelm us.”

At the end of Jones’ testimony, one of the family’s attorneys, Mark Bankston, took out a broken dollar bill from his pocket, showed it to Jones, and presented it to the parents.

“The day Sandy Hook happened, Alex Jones sowed a seed of misinformation that lasted a decade,” parents’ attorney Kyle Farrar told the jury in the conclusive debate. “And he irrigated that seed until it bears fruit: cruelty and money.”

During his testimony, Jones said he has tried to support false claims in the past, but “they (the media) won’t let me take it back.”

Jones – who has been banned from major social media platforms for hate speech and abusive behavior – has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights and complains that he has been “typecasted as Sandy Hook”. Talking about runs around, earns money Sandy Hook, is obsessed with Sandy Hook.”

Eight days of testimony included videos of Jones and InfoWars employees talking about the Sandy Hook plot, and even a 2017 television interview mocking Heslin’s description that he found the body of his dead son Jesse. “with a bullet hole through his head”. Heslein described that moment with his dead son to the jury.

Jones was the only witness to testify in his defense. And he came under attack from plaintiff attorneys at cross-examination, as they reviewed Jones’ own video claims about Sandy Hook over the years, and accused him of lying and hiding evidence, including text messages and emails about Sandy Hook. accused of trying. It also included internal emails sent by an Infowars employee saying “this Sandy Hook stuff is killing us.”

At one point, Jones was told that his lawyers had mistakenly sent Bankston messages from Jones’ cellphone for the past two years.

And shortly after Jones declared “I don’t use email”, Jones was shown one that came from his address, and another from an Infowars business executive told Jones that the company had called in the same day. Gross earned $800,000 selling its products, which would amount to approximately $300 million in a single year.

Jones has already tried to keep the free speech system financially secure. The company filed for federal bankruptcy protection last week. The Sandy Hook families have separately sued Jones’ financial claims, arguing that the company is trying to protect the millions owned by Jones and his family through shell entities.

Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.

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