In a mostly slow and then suddenly explosive day of testimony, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones took the stand Thursday in a trial that will determine how much he and his company should pay in damages to people he defamed after the shooting. 2012 at Sandy Hook. Grundschule.
Even before Mr. Jones erupted in a tirade in the final hour, the day’s proceedings in a Connecticut court had been contentious and frequently interrupted. Stoppages were so common that Judge Barbara Bellis told jurors they would get sick of exercising after they were repeatedly asked to leave the courtroom so she could speak privately with attorneys.
Now in its second week, the trial stems from a case brought by eight families and an FBI agent who responded to the attack in 2012. They sued Mr. Jones after being subjected to years of harassment and threats from people who believed in the claims of the Infowars fabulist. that the massacre was a hoax and that the relatives of the 20 first-grade children and six educators who died were “crisis actors.”
Here’s what you should know about Thursday’s testimony:
Testimony touching on prohibited subjects forced the judge to withdraw the jury.
Judge Bellis frequently stopped proceedings to review with Mr. Jones and the attorneys for both sides what they could and could not say.
Before Mr. Jones took the stand, the judge had barred all parties from discussing various issues, hoping to avoid “displeasures”, he said. Those hands-off issues included the First Amendment, the amount of the jury award in a similar case against Mr. Jones last month, and Mr. Jones’ bankruptcy filing for Infowars’ parent company.
The ban on political statements, implemented in part to prevent Mr. Jones from claiming the case was a plot by his enemies to silence him, was a frequent sticking point. Jones cited the prohibition against answering questions several times, and his attorney used it to raise objections.
When Chris Mattei, an attorney for the families, asked Jones if his credibility with his audience was the most important attribute, Jones first refused to answer, then said his priority was “crushing the globalists.”
After Mattei used those very words, Norm Pattis, Jones’ attorney, demurred, saying the response would open the door for the families to inject politics into the trial.
Complaints and smoldering outbursts preceded an eruption in the final minutes of testimony.
From the moment he took the stand, Mr. Jones’s testimony was a combative affair.
Mr. Jones sometimes had trouble following the judge’s rules, interrupting prohibited topics and often speaking over his own attorney’s objections.
Mr. Jones described the trial as “a deep state situation”, although he admitted after some questioning that he was not “officially” being sued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. At one point, he derisively characterized Mattei’s argument as “conservatives who put up stickers are bad” and “we all have to go to prison.”
During a sidebar with the judge, Jones’ attorney alluded to his hostile mood: “He thinks this trial reflects the efforts of tyrants to silence him, including George Soros and Hillary Clinton.”
Then, shortly after Mr. Mattei said that he would only need about 20 minutes to finish his interrogation, the session turned chaotic.
Mr. Mattei played a video of a tearful statement from the father of one of the slain students and said that Mr. Jones had put a “target” on him and other parents. Mr Jones exploded, saying “liberals” like Mr Mattei are “incredible, they turn emotions on and off when they want, they’re chasing an ambulance”.
Mr. Mattei chided Mr. Jones and reminded him that the people in the courtroom had lost family members.
“Is this a wrestling session? Are we in China? I’ve already said I’m sorry, and I’m done saying I’m sorry,” Jones replied, as his attorney shouted objections.
Finally, Judge Bellis reprimanded Mr. Jones. “This is not a press conference, this is not his program,” he said. “You have to respect the process.”
After the jury was excused for the day, Judge Bellis threatened Mr. Jones and his attorney with a contempt hearing if the outbursts were repeated at trial.
The video clips countered Jones’s attempts to distance himself from earlier comments and his former collaborators.
Throughout the day, Mr. Jones said he couldn’t recall specific things he had said about the Sandy Hook shooting and demurred when asked about his former associates. Mattei responded with footage from the “Alex Jones Show,” in which he spread lies about the 2012 shooting and mocked the lawsuits against him.
Jones said he had no recollection of accusing the parents of “fake crying” before Mattei played footage of him doing exactly that and calling the shooting “faked like a $3 bill.”
He also denied knowing Matthew Mills, who interrupted a post-Super Bowl game interview in 2014 and later interrupted a memorial run planned by the family of a Sandy Hook victim. A video was then played of Mr. Jones interviewing Mr. Mills, praising him as a “standing guy” and offering to hire him.
Mr. Jones couldn’t remember if he commanded, in the air, people who put Infowars stickers on a street sign in front of the courthouse. Mr. Mattei then played a clip from a recent episode of the host telling those people “we congratulate you.”
And he said he couldn’t recall details about Dan Bidondi, a freelance videographer who worked for Infowars and made multiple trips to Newtown, home to the Sandy Hook School, to confront residents and survivors. According to a recording played in court, Mr. Jones described sending the cameraman on a mission as similar to “unleashing the Kraken.”
Jones, who earlier in his testimony had said he had a “pretty good memory,” responded to a question about Bidondi by saying, “I don’t remember what happened two weeks ago on my show.”
Mr. Jones’s business model was a major focus.
Mr. Mattei explored how Mr. Jones made money, including by advertising dietary supplements and other products.
It’s a crucial element of the case: Last year, Mr. Jones was found liable for violating the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by selling products against false claims about Sandy Hook. In Connecticut, there is no cap on punitive damages awarded in cases involving that law.
Mr. Mattei suggested that Mr. Jones, whose Infowars site promoted the trial against him as a “Kangaroo Court,” was using the trial as a marketing opportunity for his supporters.