WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A representative for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' Infowars brand was expected to return to the witness stand Thursday for questions about how Jones pushed lies that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax as his companies grew more successful.
Brittany Paz, a Connecticut lawyer hired by Jones to testify about his companies' workings, acknowledged Wednesday that Jones' show, website and social media platforms spread falsehoods about the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 first graders and six educators.
Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, have been found liable for damages to relatives of eight victims of the massacre, as well as to an FBI agent who responded to the scene. A six-member jury in Waterbury will determine how much Jones should pay the plaintiffs.
At a similar trial in Texas last month, a jury determined Jones and Free Speech Systems should pay nearly $50 million to the parents of one of the Sandy Hook children who died.
Website traffic data reports run by Infowars employees and presented at the trial Wednesday showed Jones' audience ballooned in the years after the shooting. By 2016, his show aired on 150 affiliate radio stations, and the Infowars website got 40 million page views a month.
Paz testified Wednesday that she believes Jones and his companies have made hundreds of millions of dollars in the decade since the massacre and Jones is now worth millions of dollars. But she could not answer several questions about Jones' businesses by the families' lawyer, Christopher Mattei, saying she had not received some documents from the companies and could not recall other information.
The families' lawsuit claims that Jones trafficked in lies to increase his audience and sales of the nutritional supplements, clothing and other merchandise he sells on the Infowars website and hawks on his web show. He and guests on his show said the shooting was staged with crisis actors as part of gun control efforts.
Jones, however, now says he believes the shooting happened, but he insists his comments were protected by free speech rights, which he cannot argue at trial because he has already been found liable for damages.
“We knew they were using Sandy Hook to get the Second, but now they’re using it to kill the First,” he said on his Infowars web show Wednesday.
Judges in the Connecticut and Texas cases found Jones liable without trials, as penalties for what they called his repeated failures to turn over documents to the families' lawyers.
The families say the emotional and psychological harm was profound and persistent. Relatives say they were subjected to social media harassment, death threats, strangers videotaping them and their children, and the surreal pain of being told that they were faking their loss.
Jones' lawyer, Norman Pattis, said in his opening statement Tuesday that any damages should be minimal and claimed the families were exaggerating the harm they say they have suffered.
“At what point do we regard him as a crank on the village green, a person we can walk away from if we choose?” Pattis asked.
Find AP’s full coverage of the Alex Jones trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/alex-jones
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