An FBI agent struggled to control his emotions as he described seeing bodies inside Sandy Hook primary school — a scene that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones later claimed was staged by actors.
Jones, who did not show up for the first day of the trial, faces being forced to pay unlimited damages to the eight families and one FBI agent suing him for defamation.
It is the second such trial, after a Texas jury ordered he pay almost $50 million in damages to another set of families.
In this trial, held in the Connecticut town of Waterbury, 20 miles from Sandy Hook, Jones has already been found guilty be default for refusing to comply with proceedings and hand over evidence.
He and his lawyers were admonished by the judge on Tuesday – the first day of a trial expected to last five weeks – for their ‘stunningly cavalier’ attitude to the proceedings, and failing to hand over discovery.
William Aldenberg was the first witness to give evidence as a Connecticut jury began hearing statements in the trial, to decide how much money Jones owes for spreading the lie that the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown did not happen.
Aldenberg broke down as he described being among the first law enforcement officers to enter the two classrooms where 20 children died.
‘Was what you saw in that school fake?’ asked Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
‘No,’ Aldenberg said. ‘It’s awful. It’s awful.’
William Aldenberg listens to lead plaintiff attorney Chris Mattei in the Connecticut courtroom on Tuesday
Aldenberg became emotional as he testified about the scene at Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones did not show up for the trial on Tuesday, but is expected to testify during the course of the five-week proceedings
Jones, pictured in his studio, insists that he is protected by free speech
He also told how he and others in the community and law enforcement were targeted with threats and conspiracy theories, including one that claimed he was an actor who also pretended to be the father of a victim.
‘It’s one of the worst things that ever happened, if not the worst thing that ever happened here, what happened to them,’ Aldenberg said.
‘And people want to say this didn’t happen? And then they want to get rich off of it? That’s the worst part.’
The court heard how Jones made as much as $800,000 a day selling supplements, doomsday supplies and other products.
On Tuesday he was in his Texas studio, broadcasting live and calling all the cases against him as ‘show trials,’ where judges have predetermined the outcome.
The trial in Waterbury, less than 20 miles from Newtown, where the children and six teachers were shot dead, was attended by more than a dozen family members of victims, including David Wheeler, the father who conspiracy theorists claimed was the same person as Aldenberg.
Wheeler nodded as Aldenberg apologized for what he had to endure because of their resemblance.
The jurors were shown some of Jones’s broadcasts, in which he claimed the shooting never happened
The Sandy Hook families and Aldenberg say they have been confronted and harassed for years by people who believed Jones’s false claim that the shooting was staged by crisis actors as part of a plot to take away people’s guns.
Some say strangers videotaped them and their surviving children. They have also endured death threats and been subjected to abusive comments on social media.
Some families have moved out of Newtown to avoid harassment, and accuse Jones of causing them emotional and psychological harm.
‘You know, you can say whatever you want about me, I don’t care,’ Aldenberg said. ‘Just say what you want. I’m frigging big boy. I can take it.
‘But then they want to make profits, they want to make millions and millions of dollars. They want to destroy people’s lives. Their children got slaughtered. I saw it myself, and now they have to sit here and listen to me say this.’
Norm Pattis, Jones’ lawyer, is seen arriving in court on Tuesday
It is the second such trial for Jones, who was ordered by a Texas jury last month to pay nearly $50 million to the parents of one of the murdered children.
Jones was not at the trial on Tuesday but is expected to attend next week.
A jury of three men and three women along with several alternatives will decide how much Jones should pay relatives of eight victims and Aldenberg.
Judge Barbara Bellis found Jones liable without a trial last year after he failed to turn over documents to the families’ lawyers.
The judge also sanctioned Jones on Tuesday for failing to turn over analytic data related to his website and the popularity of his show.
She told his lawyers that because of that failure, they will not be allowed to argue he did not profit from his Sandy Hook remarks.
In opening statements, Jones was described by Mattei as a bully and by his own lawyer as a crank who should be ignored.
Mattei showed jurors data indicating how Jones’s audience increased as he spread lies about the shooting.
He also showed them photos and videos of things Jones had said, and told the panel they already had the tools from their own life experiences to decide what to do in this case.
‘What your parents taught you, what your grandparents taught you to know the difference between right and wrong, to know the difference between the truth and a horrible lie, to know the importance of standing up to bullies when they prey on people who are helpless and profit from them, and to know unless you stop a bully, a bully will never stop,’ he said.
‘And when it comes to stopping Alex Jones, that will be the most important work that you do.’
Jones’s lawyer Norm Pattis argued that his client has espoused a number of conspiracy theories over the years, which he has a constitutional right to do.
‘At what point do we regard him as a crank on the village green, a person we can walk away from if we choose?’ he asked.
Pattis told the jury that although Jones is liable for damages, any award should be minimal and alleged the families were overstating the harm Jones caused.
Infowars’ Alex Jones made $232K off hoax Sandy Hook claims in online revenue in just 1 day, victims’ lawyer says – at the start of his second defamation trial
Deep-pocketed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones reaped nearly a quarter of a million dollars in just one day off of the bogus claim that the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a hoax, the lawyer for the families suing the InfoWars host said Tuesday.
The trial will determine how much money the Texas media mogul will have to pay to the families of the victims of the mass murder at the Newtown, Connecticut school. He was found liable for damages last November in a default judgment.
The civil case, the second of three, is a consolidation of lawsuits by 15 family members and an FBI agent against the shock jock. It could potentially be far more financially devastating than the $50 million Texas verdict against Jones last month in a civil case by the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who died in the shooting on December 14, 2012.
Attorney Chris Mattei, who is representing 15 people suing the Texas media mogul, said that Jones made $232,000 in a single day when the InfoWars website published the story that the FBI said that there were no deaths reported.
Alex Jones made $232,000 in a single day when the InfoWars website published the story that the FBI said that there were no deaths reported
Chris Mattei, the lawyer for the families suing Jones, tried to draw a direct line between the lies on InfoWars about Sandy Hook and the money he made
‘$232,000 in a day, just on that one platform,’ Mattei said, according to the News Times. ‘What you see there is the relationship between the lie, the audience, and the money tree.’
The lawyer said that the case is not just about the money, though.
‘Unless you stop a bully, a bully will never stop himself,’ he said.
In February, 2020, Jones sent an email about another single day take, this time the number had grown dramatically.
‘We ended up about $810K yesterday,’ he wrote.
‘One day. Do the math,’ Mattei told the jury.
Jones, who is expected to testify, didn’t show on the first day of the trial, prompting Watertown, Connecticut, Judge Barbara Bellis to sanction the millionaire podcaster.
‘This stunningly cavalier attitude toward their discovery obligations is what lead to the default judgement in the first place,’ a clearly annoyed Bellis said. ‘The defendants have consistently engaged in dilatory and obstructive discovery practices from the inception of these cases right through to the trial.’
She also admonished his lawyer, Norman Pattis, that they may not argue that he did not profit off his coverage of the brutal slaughter of adolescent children.
‘The court hereby sanctions the defendants by precluding them from presenting evidence or argument that they did not profit from the Sandy Hook coverage,’ she said from the bench.
Jones testified in the Texas trial, admitting that he was wrong to deny the massacre, which took the lives of 20 children and six adults.
‘Especially since I’ve met the parents. It’s 100 percent real,’ the right-wing media mogul admitted on the stand.
Starting today a jury of six will hear evidence to consider how much Jones should pay. The trial is expected to last six weeks.
Alex Jones took the stand in Austin, Texas and admitted that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was ‘100 percent real’
Jones speaking to a Connecticut News12 reporter outside of the deposition in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Prior to this, Jones paid two separate fines of $25,000 and $50,000 for missing appearances in March
The podcast host’s lawyer said that the goal of the families is to stop Alex Jones, but he questioned what the greater harm would be.
‘Our suggestion is that if you stop Alex Jones you do a greater harm upon the public,’ Pattis said during his opening arguments. ‘They hate him because he says outrageous things and the haters want him silenced.’
Pattis pointed out that one of the flashpoints of the current culture wars is gun control and that the motivation for going after his client is not just because of the lies that he spun.
‘It is our contention that the plaintiffs in this case exaggerated the harm that he caused them and they exaggerated it for political reasons,’ he said.
Jones may have admitted that he spread lies about Sandy Hook, but he’s still unrepentant about the harm the families say he caused.
Jones continues to argue that his coverage was protected by the First Amendment.
Recently, during an interview with YouTube journalist Andrew Callaghan, he pushed back against accusations of irresponsible journalism or wrongdoing.
‘Do I feel responsible that someone that played shoot-em-up video games, on a bunch of drugs, went and killed a bunch of kids and then the internet questioned it, and I covered that?’ he said. ‘No, I don’t feel responsible – and I don’t apologize,’
In their lawsuits, the families and FBI agent William Aldenberg say that they have been subject to harassment, abusive comments on social media and even death threats because of the hoax conspiracy.
Some of the plaintiffs say strangers have videotaped them and their surviving children. And some families have moved out of 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,’ Neil Heslin, Jesse Lewis’ father, testified during the Texas trial.
The Connecticut lawsuit alleges defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the state Unfair Trade Practices Act. The families claim when Jones talked about Sandy Hook, he boosted his audience and raked in more profits from selling supplements, clothing and other items.
A parent with two children confers with an official on the day of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012
The victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre are pictured here: starting on the top row, from left to right, are Ana Marquez-Greene, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Emilie Parker, and Noah Pozner; Jesse Lewis, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Charlotte Bacon and Chase Kowalski; Daniel Barden, Jack Pinto, Catherine Hubbard, Dylan Hockley and Benjamin Wheeler; Grace McDonnell, James Mattioli, Avielle Richman, Rachel Davino and Anne Marie Murphy; Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Dawn Hochsprung and Nancy Lanza
Twenty children, between the ages of six and seven years old, and six adults were killed when 20-year-old Adam Lanza went on a shooting spree – with their families now setting their sights on Jones for his troubling assertions that the massacre was carried out by ‘crisis actors’
A parent walks away from the Sandy Hook Elementary School with her children following a shooting at the school in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 14, 2012
Veronique De La Rosa, mother of Noah Pozner, who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, wipes away tears during a news conference in Trumbull, Connecticut on February 15, 2022
The families have not asked for any specific amount of damages, some of which may be limited by state laws. There are no damage limits, however, under the Unfair Trade Practices Act.
In all the Connecticut and Texas cases, Jones and his lawyers repeatedly failed to turn over records as required to the families’ attorneys. In response, judges handed down one of the harshest sanctions in the civil legal world — they found Jones liable for damages by default without trials.
Jones, who runs his web show and Infowars brand in Austin, Texas, also faces a third trial over the hoax conspiracy in another pending lawsuit by Sandy Hook parents in Texas.