For years, radio broadcaster and InfoWars host Alex Jones spread lies that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was staged. Once facing lawsuits, he said in a sworn deposition that a “form of psychosis” caused him to believe that. Earlier this year, Jones lost by default the defamation lawsuits brought against him by parents.
Jones is on trial in Austin this week to determine the amount in compensatory damages he owes two parents of a child killed in the 2012 mass shooting. The plaintiffs are seeking $150 million in damages.
Dan Solomon, a senior editor with Texas Monthly, said the spectacle of a trial has juxtaposed the carnival that follows Jones everywhere with the incredibly somber experience for the parents whose child was killed at Sandy Hook.
“You have this really complex set of feelings because Jones is an entertainer and his staff are trained media people and they are trying to win the jury over with a little bit of a little bit of humor. And they think that they’re right,” Solomon said. “You have Jones’s people saying ridiculous things on the stand – and, you know, occasionally dipping back into conspiracy theory – even as talking about Sandy Hook as though it never happened has gotten them in enormous trouble. And then all of this is happening in front of these two parents who are still grieving their 6-year-old who was murdered.”
One of the highlights from this particular trial has been the revelation that Jones’ lawyers accidentally sent a trove of his emails and text messages from the past two years to the lawyers of the Sandy Hook parents.
“The contents of one of Jones’s phones had been placed in a Dropbox folder accidentally. The attorney had notified the other lawyer, the opposing counsel, that he had done so. That lawyer never responded to that notification. And after 10 days, the contents of the phone became property of the plaintiff’s side,” Solomon said.
“And, you know, so there are all of Alex’s text messages, his emails. You know, there’s some stuff that contradicts things that Jones had said during the deposition, like he doesn’t use the email and that he had never texted anyone about Sandy Hook and so he couldn’t find any texts about it.”
The jury will continue to deliberate today after receiving the case late Wednesday afternoon. After deciding on compensatory damages, the trial will move on to the second phase, punitive damages.