Infowars founder Alex Jones took the stand today in a trial that will determine what he owes to the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook mass shooting. Last year, Jones was found liable in a series of defamation cases brought by the parents of Sandy Hook victims.
For years, Jones and Infowars spread outlandish and disturbing conspiracy theories purporting that the 2012 tragedy, which claimed 28 lives - most of them children - was staged.
The first trial to determine the damages Jones may owe is underway in Texas, with Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of six-year-old Sandy Hook victim Jesse Lewis, seeking at least $150 million. Late last month, Infowars' parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, likely a pre-emptive effort to dodge financial culpability before the outcome of the trial.
In a surprise twist Wednesday, the lawyer representing the Sandy Hook victim's parents revealed that he recently received a trove of Jones' phone data, apparently shared to the opposing legal team by mistake.
Jones lost four separate defamation cases relating to Sandy Hook by default after refusing to cooperate with Texas and Connecticut courts and provide requested documents. Jones also failed to produce any messages related to Sandy Hook in the discovery process for the damages trial - a discrepancy that the family's lawyer Mark Bankston highlighted on Wednesday.
"You know what perjury is, right?" Bankston asked.
The plaintiff's lawyer also cited emails that showed Infowars making $800,000 a day - a mind-boggling figure that Jones did not dispute in spite of his previous contradictory claims about the company's revenue. Jones claimed that any punishment above $2 million would "sink" his company.
Whether any damages awarded would destroy his business or not, the trial could prove to be a cautionary tale for the countless businesses peddling conspiracies that, like Infowars, rake in revenue around dangerous and politically divisive misinformation.
Shortly after the reveal, Rolling Stone reported that the January 6 committee plans to request those messages and emails in its ongoing investigation into the Capitol insurrection.
Jones is in court after infamously claiming that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a fake event staged by "crisis actors" to advance a covert ideological agenda. The false claims spread online like wildfire in conspiracist echo chambers over the last decade, inspiring believers to stalk and harass the parents of Sandy Hook victims, some of whom even moved or went into hiding to escape the abuse.
Heslin described the situation as a "living hell" in testimony this week. "What was said about me and Sandy Hook itself resonates around the world," he said. "As time went on, I truly realized how dangerous it was... My life has been threatened. I fear for my life, I fear for my safety."
Alex Jones has cashed in on the Infowars conspiracy empire for years, promoting repeated claims of government coverups and false flag operations while pushing branded products like nootropic supplements promising to enhance "male vitality." While skirting the rules or even outright breaking them, Jones managed to stay active on mainstream social media platforms until just a few years ago.
In late 2018, major tech companies including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and Apple kicked Jones off of their platforms, citing his long track record of misbehavior, misinformation and harassment. Apple spearheaded the effort, erasing Infowars from the App Store after Jones' media empire broke its rules against hate speech.