AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A producer for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ media company tried to paint a sympathetic portrait of …
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The producer of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ media company tried to paint a sympathetic portrait of him Thursday as jurors decide how much he should pay in financial damages for his past claims the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax — a step , which the lawyers of the parents of the child killed during the massacre immediately called hypocritical.
Daria Karpava, a producer for Jones’s Austin, Texas-based website Infowars, testified that the pressure of multiple lawsuits and lawsuits took a toll on Jones. He has been “stressed out” and can’t relax even on vacation as he has been constantly worrying about his programs and money for the past four years after being sued for defamation.
Karpava said some people believe Jones killed the 20 first-graders killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre that left 26 dead.
A lawyer for the parents, who are suing Jones for at least $150 million for the abuse they say they suffered over the years because of Jones’ false claims, immediately seized on the image of a wounded man struggling to cope with the lies about him as posing.
“When people lie about you, does it affect you negatively, does it affect your well-being? Do you realize the irony, the hypocrisy, of you making that statement in this courtroom right now?” asked Mark Bankston, the attorney for Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was killed at the school.
“It’s just the truth,” Karpava said. “What should I say?”
Heslin and Lewis are suing Jones for the emotional distress and reputational damage Jones caused them, and are seeking at least $150 million from Jones and his Free Speech Systems media empire.
Courts in Texas and Connecticut have already found Jones liable for defamation for portraying the Sandy Hook massacre as a hoax involving “crisis actors” to promote gun control. In both states, judges entered default judgments against Jones without a trial because he did not respond to court orders or turn over documents.
In all, the families of eight Sandy Hook victims and the FBI agent who responded to the school have sued Jones and his company in multiple lawsuits.
Jones has since acknowledged that the shooting took place, but insists he is not responsible for the suffering Sandy Hook parents say they endured because of the false conspiracy, including death threats and harassment from Jones’ followers.
The first three days of the trial were dominated by videos of reports by Jones and Sandy Hook on Infowars and testimony by Karpova, who has worked at the site since 2015.
Karpava was appointed by the company as its representative at the trial, but she could not answer questions about the company’s income and the number of its viewers and listeners. She also struggled to answer other questions about some of the video evidence she was instructed to testify about.
In one video released by attorney Andino Reynal from 2017, Jones invited Sandy Hook families to come to his program for an “open dialogue”
“Alex could have been an advocate for these parents, done a lot of good to stop anyone from molesting them,” she said as Heslin and Lewis sat about 20 feet away in the courtroom.
Karpova called the show’s reliance on Sandy Hook denier Wolfgang Halbig as a frequent guest and source of information “the worst decision the company has ever made.” Several clips presented as evidence included Helbig as well as a mocking email he sent to Scarlett Lewis.
Later Thursday, jurors watched a 2017 Infowars clip at the heart of the case: a report in which studio host Owen Schroer strongly suggested that Heslin could not have held his dead son’s body as he described in a television interview.
“I’m very sorry if this hurt anybody,” Schroer said Thursday after being called as a witness. “I hope their sadness will end someday.”
He then suggested that the litigation itself could continue to harm families.
Jones was in and out of the courtroom during his testimony. He had four bodyguards with him on Thursday. He tried to portray the damages trial as an attack on the right to free speech enshrined in the First Amendment.
He arrived at the courthouse Tuesday with the message “Save the First” printed on a large piece of silver tape above that mouth. During a break during opening statements, he held an impromptu news conference a few steps from the courtroom to call the trial a “showy” “kangaroo court.”
For more on the school shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings
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