Saturday August 13th, 2022 8:24PM

Alex Jones concedes Sandy Hook attack was '100% real'

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — For years, bombastic far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones ranted to his millions of followers that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax, that children weren’t killed and that parents were crisis actors in an elaborate ruse to force gun control.

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

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

“I unintentionally took part in things that did hurt these people’s feelings,” said Jones, who also acknowledged raising conspiracy claims about other mass tragedies, from the Oklahoma City and Boston Marathon bombings to the mass shootings in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida, “and I’m sorry for that.”

But an apology isn’t enough for Heslin and Lewis. They said Jones and the media empire he controls and used to spread his false assertions must be held accountable.

“Alex started this fight,” Heslin said, “and I’ll finish this fight.”

The parents testified Tuesday about a decade of trauma, inflicted first by the murder of their son and what followed: gun shots fired at a home, online and telephone threats, and harassment on the street by strangers, all fueled by Jones and his conspiracy theory spread to his followers via his website Infowars.

A forensic psychiatrist testified the parents suffer from “complex post-traumatic stress disorder” inflicted by ongoing trauma, similar to what might be experienced by a soldier at war or a child abuse victim.

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

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

Courts in Texas and Connecticut have already found Jones liable for defamation for his portrayal of the Sandy Hook massacre as a hoax involving actors aimed at increasing gun control.

Now, Heslin and Lewis are asking the 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.

Jurors began considering damages Wednesday. Once they determine whether Jones should pay the parents compensation for defamation and emotional distress, it must then decide if he must also pay punitive damages. That portion will involve a separate mini-trial with Jones and economists testifying to his and his company’s net worth.

Jones’ attorney asked the jury to limit damages to $8 — one dollar for each of the compensation charges they are considering — and Jones himself said any award over $2 million “would sink us.”

At the end of Jones’ testimony, Mark Bankston, an attorney for the family, pulled a crumpled dollar bill out of his pocket, showed it to Jones, and put it down in front of the parents.

“The day Sandy Hook happened, Alex Jones planted a seed of misinformation that lasted a decade,” parents’ attorney Kyle Farrar told the jury in closing arguments. “And he just watered that seed over and over until it bore fruit: cruelty and money.”

During his testimony, Jones said he’s tried in the past to back off the hoax claims, 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 complained that he’s been “typecast as someone that runs around talking about Sandy Hook, makes money off Sandy Hook, is obsessed by Sandy Hook.”

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

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

At one point, Jones was told that his attorneys had mistakenly sent Bankston the last two years’ worth of texts from Jones’ cellphone.

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

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


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


For more of the AP’s coverage of school shootings:

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News
© Copyright 2022
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Alex Jones concedes Sandy Hook attack was '100% real'
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones says he now understands it was irresponsible of him to declare the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a hoax and that he now believes it was “100% real.”
11:39AM ( 4 minutes ago )
Steam bath weather adds to misery after Appalachian flooding
Temperatures are soaring in a region of eastern Kentucky where people are shoveling out the wreckage of massive flooding
11:23AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Deadly California wildfire wipes out scenic river town
Firefighters say they're making progress as they battle California's largest and deadliest wildfire of the year
11:17AM ( 27 minutes ago )
U.S. News
Takeaways: Abortion backlash in Kansas, Greitens' collapse
In one of the biggest days of this year's primary campaign season, red-state Kansas rejected a measure that would have made it easier to restrict abortion, and voters in Missouri repudiated a scandal-tarred former governor seeking a Senate seat
11:22AM ( 21 minutes ago )
OPEC+ boosts oil output by slower pace than previous months
The OPEC oil cartel and its allies have decided to boost production in September by a much slower pace than in previous months
11:11AM ( 32 minutes ago )
Michigan GOP Rep. Meijer loses reelection after Trump vote
Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, who witnessed the Capitol riot days after taking office in 2021 and then cast one of the 10 Republican votes to impeach Donald Trump over the attack, has lost his reelection bid
11:06AM ( 37 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
US stocks rise as more big companies report solid earnings
Stocks are rising in morning trading on Wall Street Wednesday as investors reviewed a mostly encouraging batch of earnings from big companies
10:37AM ( 1 hour ago )
Inspectors OK 1st Ukraine grain ship but no sign yet of more
The first grain ship to leave Ukraine under a Black Sea wartime deal has passed inspection in Istanbul and is heading on to Lebanon
10:07AM ( 1 hour ago )
Wall Street rising at open; PayPal, CVS in focus
Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street Wednesday
9:52AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Producer Janet Yang elected president of film academy
Producer Janet Yang has been elected the 36th president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
8:38PM ( 15 hours ago )
Robinhood cuts 23% of its workforce as fewer users trade
Robinhood Markets is cutting about 23% of its workforce because fewer users are trading on its app amid the tumult hammering stock and cryptocurrency markets
7:57PM ( 15 hours ago )
Starbucks reports record revenue on frothy US demand
Starbucks reported record revenue in the April-June period, as strong U.S. demand made up for COVID shutdowns in China
7:02PM ( 16 hours ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Steam bath weather adds to misery after Appalachian flooding
Temperatures are soaring in a region of eastern Kentucky where people are shoveling out the wreckage of massive flooding
11:23AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Deadly California wildfire wipes out scenic river town
Firefighters say they're making progress as they battle California's largest and deadliest wildfire of the year
11:17AM ( 27 minutes ago )
Los Angeles OKs sweeping ban on homeless camps near schools
The Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban homeless encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycare centers
10:27AM ( 1 hour ago )
Sandy Hook parents: Alex Jones claims created 'living hell'
The parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre say conspiracy theorist Alex Jones made their lives a “living hell” by repeatedly pushing false claims that the killings were a hoax
10:26AM ( 1 hour ago )
Atlanta's image challenged by facts of 1906 race massacre
Everyone who moves through downtown Atlanta today passes places where in 1906, innocent Black men and women were chased and beaten to death by a mob of 10,000 white men
9:37AM ( 2 hours ago )