Often speaking directly to InfoWars host Alex Jones, the mother of a 6-year-old killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School testified Tuesday that the right-wing conspiracy theorist’s lies that the attack was a hoax have left her in fear for her life and compounded her grief.
“Having a 6-year-old son shot in front of his classroom is unbearable and you don’t think you’re going to survive and then to have someone on top of that perpetuate a lie that it was a hoax, that it was a false flag,” Scarlett Lewis said during her testimony. “I don’t think you understand the fear you perpetuate, not just to the victim’s family but to our family, our friends and any survivor from that school.”
Jesse Lewis, along with 19 of his first-grade classmates and six educators, was killed after a gunman entered their school in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.
Lewis and Jesse’s father, Neil Heslin, are among several Sandy Hook families that have filed lawsuits against Jones arguing that his statements that the attack was a hoax have led to years of abuse from his followers. The parents, both of whom testified Tuesday, have asked that Jones pay $150 million for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“The ripple effect is enormous because of the platform that you have. And the fear that comes from that stops the healing and the mourning process,” Lewis said to Jones during her testimony.
Lewis testified that she received death threats and that her family and friends have also been harassed by Jones’ followers.
Lewis said that one Christmas morning, an individual drove into her driveway in Connecticut and began taking pictures of her and her home. She said she has not felt safe and has had to keep a gun at her home for the sake of her other son.
“I’m a single mother and responsible for the safety of both of my boys, and I was not able to keep one safe so I’m going to keep my surviving son safe,” Lewis said in emotional testimony.
Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights, also took the stand Tuesday and told Lewis and Heslin that he “never intentionally tried to hurt you.”
Later in his testimony, however, he said that his views about Sandy Hook came from signs he saw that it was a “synthetic” event, manipulated by outside forces.
He also blamed the “corporate media” several times during his testimony, saying that they lie and misrepresent truths, leading him to question everything reported.
Heslin told jurors that the pain of losing his son was compounded by Jones’ assertion that he never existed.
“It’s very important for me to have this trial and the testimony today to hold Alex Jones accountable,” he said.” Statements by both Infowars and Alex Jones repeatedly have tarnished Jesse.”
The crux of the trial is a 2017 episode of NBC's “Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly,” on which Heslin appeared and challenged Jones’ denial of the shooting. Heslin says in the episode: “I held my son with a bullet hole through his head.”
Jones and another Infowars host, Owen Shroyer, later implied that Heslin had lied.
Heslin testified: “I can’t even describe the last nine and half years of living hell that I and others have had to endure because of the negligence and recklessness of Alex Jones."
“My goal is to hold Alex Jones accountable," he added, "and to be able to walk out of this courthouse very soon with this all behind me and move on with my life."
Judges in Texas and Connecticut have already found him liable for defamation for pushing the Sandy Hook hoax claim and issued default judgments against him. Those trials did not proceed because he failed to respond to court orders and turn over documents.
This trial began last week and is being held in Austin, where Jones’ Infowars website and its parent company are based.
Jones was absent from court during Heslin’s testimony, but went live on his show and mocked Heslin, calling him “slow” and “on the spectrum.” He said the father was “being manipulated by some very bad people.”
Attorneys for Lewis and Heslin had a recording of Jones’ Tuesday morning comments admitted as evidence and played for the jury.
Jones will continue his testimony on Wednesday. Outside the ears of the jury, Jones was admonished by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble for violating orders specifying that he was not allowed to talk about his finances and for offering answers that strayed too far from the questions asked.
“When you come back to testify tomorrow, one more time, no asides,” the judge said. “Answer only the question asked of you.”
Facebook pages belonging to Jones or InfoWars had a combined total of more than 2.5 million followers, and Jones’ YouTube account had 2.4 million subscribers when the accounts were removed in 2018.
Jones had around 900,000 followers on Twitter and InfoWars had about 430,000 when those were removed, also in 2018.