Judge admonishes Alex Jones for speaking outside courtroom on 1st day of Sandy Hook defamation trial
A Texas judge overseeing the defamation trial that will determine how much money Alex Jones must pay Sandy Hook Elementary School parents for falsely claiming the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., was fake admonished the Infowars founder Tuesday for speaking about the case within earshot of the jury.
"We're not going to have that again," Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Jones and his attorneys.
During a break in opening arguments, Jones spoke to reporters inside Travis County Courthouse in Austin, where Infowars is based.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to be bamboozled and lose your First Amendment ... go ahead," Jones said. "You're having your rights to a trial by jury to decide if you're guilty or innocent stolen from you. This is a kangaroo court. This is a political act. This is a witch hunt."
The judge reminded Jones that every participant in the trial is "ordered to be silent out of this courtroom, or if there is any member of the jury in sight."
The trial comes after judges in Texas and Connecticut issued default judgments against Jones, finding him liable for defamation for his portrayal of the Sandy Hook massacre as a hoax involving "crisis actors" employed by the government in order to enact stricter gun control. (In both states, judges issued default judgments against Jones without trials because he failed to respond to court orders and turn over documents.)
During jury selection Monday, an attorney for Jones said he “has medical issues” that could keep him from showing up during parts of the 10-day trial.
On Tuesday, Jones arrived at the courthouse wearing a piece of silver tape over his mouth with the message “Save the 1st” printed on it. He removed it before entering the courtroom.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was one of the 20 first graders and six educators who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, were already inside. The parents, who are seeking $150 million in damages, are expected to testify.
Jones has claimed in court that he has a negative net worth of $20 million, but according to the Associated Press, court records show that Jones’s Infowars store, which sells nutritional supplements and survival gear, made more than $165 million between 2015 and 2018.
During opening arguments, Mark Bankston, a lawyer for Heslin and Lewis, argued that Jones "used Jesse's death" and the deaths of 19 other Newtown children "to sell supplements."
"Mr. Jones will do or say anything to protect his ability to profit off his lies," Bankston told the jury. "You can put an end to these lies by punishing Alex Jones."
Bankston recalled that in 2017, Heslin sat for an interview with talk show host Megyn Kelly that his client had hoped would put an end to the "crisis actor" conspiracy.
Instead, Bankston said, Jones and Infowars "retaliated against Neil for speaking out."
Jones's attorney opened his defense by arguing that on the day of the massacre in Newtown, he was "1,500 miles away" in Texas, dropping his own children off at school.
"When he heard about the event he was shocked and saddened, just like everyone else in America," Andino Reynal, Jones's lawyer, told jurors. "He was also suspicious.”
“Alex Jones doesn't trust the government," he added.