Alex Jones Sandy Hook trial in CT promises to be a ‘cultural moment’

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NEWTOWN — If last month’s Alex Jones Sandy Hook trial in Texas is an indication of what Waterbury jurors can expect Tuesday when they hear opening arguments about what Jones should pay an FBI agent and eight families he defamed, it’s to expect the unexpected.

From Jones showing up at the Texas courthouse with tape over his mouth after his lawyer told jurors they wouldn’t see him because of ill health, to the startling announcement by a lawyer for the parents of a slain Sandy Hook boy that Jones’ attorneys had mistakenly sent the other side years of Jones’ cellphone records, the Texas case was as notable for its surprises and dramatic encounters as it was for the $49.2 million in damages the jury ordered Jones to pay the parents.

With a jury of six Connecticut residents ready to hear evidence in Waterbury for a defamation awards trial expected to last at least one month, there’s no indication the second trial will be any less dramatic or suspenseful, as the face of America’s conspiracy community goes up against the faces of America’s gun violence victims.

“This is a cultural moment,” said Alexandra Lahav, a professor at Cornell Law School and an expert in complex litigation. “The courtroom is the right place to work this thing out, because this is about the truth.”

At stake is the culmination of a four-year battle by Sandy Hook families in Connecticut to hold Jones and his Infowars conspiracy merchandising enterprise accountable for calling the slaying of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School “staged,” “synthetic,” “manufactured,” “a giant hoax,” and “completely fake with actors.”

Jones was defaulted in 2021 by state Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis for abusing the pretrial process, making Jones liable for defamation before Jones could argue his case that his denial of the Sandy Hook shooting was protected by the free-speech provisions of the First Amendment. Since then, Jones and his high-profile New Haven attorney Norm Pattis have taken the case to the public that Jones no longer believes the worst crime in modern Connecticut history was staged, and that Jones has a right to be wrong.

“We look forward to pleading this case in court,” Pattis told Hearst Connecticut Media on Friday. “This case has been a long and costly distraction for Alex Jones.”

Chris Mattei, the lead attorney for the families, declined to comment on Friday.

Observers should not expect to hear testimony about Jones’ innocence when the Connecticut trial begins on Tuesday, since evidence is restricted to determining how much in compensation and punitive damages Jones should pay for defaming an FBI agent who responded to the shooting scene on Dec. 14, 2012, and eight families who lost loved ones that day.

What should observers watch for instead from a trial that is expected to last four to six weeks?

“There has been a lot of contradictory information in regard to (Jones’) finances,” Cornell’s Lahav said. “I think that is going to be super interesting how that plays out.”

Lahav is referring not only to evidence from the livestreamed Texas trial where an expert witness called by the parents testified that Jones’ net worth was between $135 million and $270 million, but also media coverage of Jones’ two bankruptcy filings, where Jones’ own representatives said he has spent $10 million on attorney fees and has lost at least $20 million because of the Sandy Hook lawsuits.

Moreover, on the day the Texas jury in early August awarded the parents the compensatory portion of their defamation damages, Jones went on his Infowars broadcast to say that his parent company, Free Speech Systems, was “broke.”

In addition to the Texas lawsuit that concluded with the $49.2 million jury award and the Connecticut lawsuit which begins on Tuesday, a third trial is planned for Texas later in the year to determine how much Jones should pay parents of another slain Sandy Hook boy Jones defamed in 2021.

In response, Jones has been appealing to supporters to buy products on the Infowars store site to keep him on the air.

“He fundraised off of the Texas verdict, so that means he has more money,” Lahav said. “It does seem like whatever the jury finds, (Jones) is probably good for it.”

Watching Jones’ mood

Another realm of the Connecticut trial that observers will follow is the mindset of Jones himself — who made headlines inside and outside the courtroom in Texas, and who raised eyebrows during an interview last week when Jones made the apparently facetious comment, “I killed the kids.”

“Do you feel responsible for what happened to the Sandy Hook families?” interviewer Andrew Callaghan asked Jones in a video interview posted on YouTube.

“Yes, I killed the children,” Jones said in a deadpan manner.

“But beyond that, I mean — ”

“No, I mean I went into that school, I pulled a gun out, and I shot every one of them myself,” Jones said in an agitated way. “I mean I’m guilty, seriously.”

“No,” objected the interviewer.

“Do I feel responsible that someone who played a (lot) of video games on a bunch of drugs went and killed a bunch of kids and then the internet questioned that and I covered it? No, I don’t feel responsible, and I don’t apologize anymore,” Jones said. “I’m done.”

Whether Jones appears at the Connecticut trial or makes news from the Austin, Texas, headquarters of his Infowars enterprise remains to be seen.

However unpredictably the Connecticut trial plays out, the legal observer Lahav says she has faith that the jury award will be “fair.”

“Studies show that juries work really hard to correctly apply the law and take their jobs seriously and I think history will show that they will do the same in this trial,” Lahav said. “That is why juries in an open court are so important.” 203-731-3342