In the Alex Jones trial, the parents of Sandy Hook victims sought $150 million in damages

AUSTIN, Texas – Lawyers for the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting told a jury here Tuesday that they should pay conspiracy broadcaster Alex Jones $150 million for claiming he faked the shooting. were involved in the official conspiracy. An excuse for gun control efforts.

The $150 million figure, suggested by the parents’ lawyer, Mark Bankston, was first reported by the families of the Sandy Hook victims to Mr. Jones and his Infowars website and broadcast, which is based in Austin. A dollar figure has been put forward, due to the spread of falsehoods about the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 first-graders and six teachers.

The dollar amount, though large, was appropriate, Mr. Bankston said, calling Mr. Jones’ false claims “the most despicable and despicable campaign of defamation and slander in American history.”

Mr. Jones, who was in the courtroom Tuesday for opening statements from both sides, was visibly uncomfortable with the proposed award. During the break he erupted in anger in the corridor outside the courtroom, calling the proceedings a “show trial” and describing them as “an absolute, complete and utter betrayal of the Constitution”.

Before the trial began, Mr. Jones momentarily covered his mouth with a long piece of duct tape emblazoned with the logo and the words “Save the 1st,” a reference to the First Amendment. Mr. Jones placed the tape with his slogan on the table in front of him, shaking his head in disagreement with Mr. Bankston’s remarks during opening statements to the jury.

He was seated a few feet away from Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of the child killed in Sandy Hook, Jessie Lewis, 6.

The trial is the first of three in which a jury will decide how much to award victims’ families in damages. In the first trial, Mr. Heslin and Ms. Lewis are to testify about the torment since Mr. Jones indicated on his show in 2017 that Mr. Heslin was televised swinging Jesse’s body shortly after the shooting. But the memory was false. Since then, the family has endured accusations and threats for years.

Leonard Posner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of Noah Posner, the youngest Sandy Hook victim, are scheduled to testify in a second trial in Austin in September. That same month, the families of eight other Sandy Hook victims will testify in a third trial in Connecticut.

The trial comes after the families of 10 victims won a defamation case against Mr Jones last year, when judges ruled that he should be charged with repeatedly failing to provide court-ordered documents and testimony. Default is responsible. The verdicts set the stage for this summer’s trials, in which juries will award the families financial damages as a result of their victories.

Mr. Jones’ lawyer, Federico Renal, suggested during jury selection on Tuesday that he would ask jurors to award the parents a dollar in damages, partly because of the additional costs Mr. Jones caused. The shocks were much milder than his death. Son

Mr. Bankston said in a statement Tuesday that the $150 million award represents a dollar for the damage to the parents’ reputation and a dollar for every quarter of Americans for their emotional loss. 2013 Fairleigh Dickinson University Survey that they believed the Sandy Hook shooting was definitely or possibly faked;

“For ten years, Mr. Jones took that time away from Neil and Scarlett to heal the violent death of their son Jesse, because Mr. Jones wanted to sell more of his products,” she said. “It’s certainly a big decision, but it’s one that will do justice to the level of harm that has been done in this case.”

Mr Rennell began his opening remarks by calling Mr Bankston’s presentation a “conspiracy of lies”.

“I am honored to represent Alex Jones and his business,” Mr. Rennell said. was given.”

Mr. Rennell repeated Mr. Jones’ longstanding claim that he was simply echoing the false claims of others, including members of his Infowars audience. In fact, Mr. Jones spread false claims about the shooting on his broadcast just hours after the incident.

Mr Rennell also advanced a claim made by other people who have been prosecuted for spreading political lies, including lies about the 2020 election: that a claim, no matter how inflammatory or wild, is not defamatory. is if the creator believes it to be true. , or, as Mr. Jones claims, they cannot tell truth from lies because they have been misled by what Mr. Renal calls “mainstream media lies.”

Travis County District Court Judge Maya Guerra Gamble repeatedly warned Mr. Jones’ lawyers that they were not suing on his First Amendment right to make false claims, as he had already waived his rights in the defamation suit. have given up.

Mr. Bankston said the proposed $150 million award would be for compensatory damages only. The jury will also decide whether to award punitive damages. Mr. Jones has earned more than $50 million a year on his broadcasts in recent years, selling nutritional supplements, conspiracy videos and books, body armor and doomsday gear. Mr. Bankston aims to introduce records released by Infowars during trial preparations that show that Mr. Jones’ broadcasts about Sandy Hook increased Infowars’ audience and product sales.

Sandy Hook families say they have a broader goal: They want the trials to alert Americans to the growing damage to vulnerable people and civilian life caused by viral political lies, even if mass shootings are denied. Those with fake ideas or false claims of a stolen 2020 election may have violence in the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“This is a matter of creating change,” Mr Bankston told the jury on Tuesday. “You have the power to prevent this from happening again.”

Mr. Jones, an ally of former President Donald J. Trump who live-streamed the Jan. 6 attack, is under scrutiny for his role in planning the events surrounding the riots.