Infowars owner and host Alex Jones appeared in court in Texas on Tuesday as he faces a civil defamation trial for claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was a hoax. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
July 26 (UPI) -- Lawyers delivered opening arguments Tuesday in a trial to determine how much Infowars owner and host Alex Jones owes in defamation damages to the parents of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, one of the 26 first grade students and teachers killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, are seeking $150 million in damages after Jones repeatedly described the shooting as a "giant hoax" involving government-employed "crisis actors."
Mark Bankston, an attorney for the parents, told the jury in the civil trial in Texas that Jones used the deaths of Jesse and the 25 other victims "to sell supplements" through his Infowars show.
"Mr. Jones will do or say anything to protect his ability to profit off his lies," Bankston said. "You can put an end to these lies by punishing Alex Jones."
Jones' attorney, Andino Reynal, told the jury that Jones was "1,500 miles away" in Texas, dropping his own children off at school, when the shooting occurred.
"When he heard about the event he was shocked and saddened, just like everyone else in America," Reynal said. "He was also suspicious."
Jones spoke to reporters inside the Travis County Courthouse during a break in opening arguments on Tuesday after he arrived at the courtroom wearing a piece of silver tape over his mouth that read "Save the 1st."
"Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to be bamboozled and lose your First Amendment ... go ahead," he 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."
Judge Maya Guerra Gamble admonished Jones and his attorneys for speaking about the case within earshot of the jury, stressing that every trial participant is "ordered to be silent out of this courtroom, or if there is any member of the jury in sight."
"We're not going to have that again," the judge said.
On Monday, during jury selection, Jones' attorneys said he may miss parts of the trial due to "medical issues," adding he "has no obligation to be here."
"Alex, you may have noticed is not here, like the plaintiffs. He may not be here through parts of the trial," Reynal said.