Sandy Hook parents confront Alex Jones, say hoax claims created ‘living hell’
Parents who lost their 6-year-old son in the Sandy Hook massacre confronted right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in a courthouse Tuesday, saying his claims that the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history was a “giant hoax” created a “living hell” for them.
Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, parents of Jesse Lewis, who was killed in the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Conn., are seeking $150 million in damages from the Infowars radio show and webcast host and his media company in a defamation trial.
Heslin, who took the stand before Jones arrived at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin on Tuesday, spoke of his grief — compounded with death threats and abuse from strangers that led the parents to fear for their own lives.
“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,” Heslin told the jury.
Twenty-six people were killed in the shooting, 20 of them young children. Jones had told his audiences that it was a “false flag” operation carried out by “crisis actors.”
“My son existed,” Jesse’s tearful mother said, directing her testimony toward Jones. “There’s records of Jesse’s birth.”
Jurors in Austin, where Infowars is headquartered, will not hear evidence about the defamation claims because Judge Maya Guerra Gamble entered a rare default judgment against Jones after he refused to turn over documents to the parents’ lawyers. Instead, the jury will determine how much in compensatory and punitive damages Jones must pay.
Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy last week, according to Jones’s attorney, who said the firm would not interfere with the defamation lawsuit.
Lewis stressed that she was not part of any “deep state” conspiracy theory. “I know you know that. That’s the problem … and you keep saying it, why? For money?” she asked. Jones shook his head.
“It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this — that we have to implore you … to get you to stop lying,” Lewis said. “I am so glad this day is here. I’m actually relieved … that I got to say all this to you.”