WATERBURY, Conn. (CN) — The Connecticut judge presiding over the start of the defamation trial against Alex Jones said the radio personality and conspiracy theorist will be forbidden from showing evidence suggesting he did not profit from his false allegations that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax.
On Tuesday, before the panel of six juror and four alternates took their seats for a trial expected to last through mid-October, Judge Barbara Bellis handed down another sanction against Jones. It comes in response to attorneys representing families of Sandy Hook shooting victims who argued that Jones did not hand over three years’ worth of Google Analytics data.
“This is a very significant concealment of evidence,” Alinor Sterling, an attorney for the families, told the judge.
While Jones’ attorney Norm Pattis said the Google Analytics information was a database and there was no evidence that he and his company consulted it, Bellis said Jones engaged in “dilatory and obstructive” practices in the four years it took the case to get to trial when granting the sanctions motion.
The new sanction comes after Bellis sanctioned Jones in November with a default judgment — finding Jones automatically liable to the families for failing to comply with her discovery orders. The trial kicking off in a third-floor courtroom in Connecticut will only determine how much compensatory and punitive damages Jones must pay.
In 2018, an FBI agent and family members of four children and two educators killed in the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting said Jones defamed them by repeatedly saying the shooting was a hoax and they were only actors. The family members say the comments caused them to endure years of harassment.
It is the second trial in the last few weeks involving Jones and Sandy Hook families. At the beginning of August, a Texas jury awarded the parents of one slain student $49.3 million.
In his opening arguments, Chris Mattei said the jurors had the opportunity to stop Alex Jones, to hold him accountable for his actions in the hours and years following the worst tragedies to befall the community in western Connecticut.
Mattei described Jones’ media enterprise going back two decades as programming that elicits “fear, paranoia and anger” over a narrative about a global plot to kill and enslave people.
“Alex Jones was perfectly positioned to take advantage of the exponential growth that social media would allow,” Mattei said, adding the impressions of Jones’ social media posts are measured over the years in the billions.
It was an audience to which Jones then hawked water filters, iodine tablets, supplements and food supplies, Mattei said.
Mattei said it is unknown how many times Jones posted about Sandy Hook, but the Sandy Hook families were “defenseless.”
Justice, Mattei told the jury, would be a verdict “resounding enough” to stop Jones from weighing in on the next tragedy in America.
Jones' attorney, meanwhile, said the Sandy Hook families “transformed money into a political weapon” by making exaggerated claims against the radio personality.
Not all the families of the Sandy Hook families filed suit against Jones, Pattis argued, and the group that did waited six years after the shooting to file their complaint.
Pattis tried to argue that some Sandy Hook families channeled their grief and anger to step into the debate over gun violence and the litigation against Jones was an attempt to silence his political speech.
Mattei then made several objections, prompting the judge to hold a sidebar, and at one point warned Pattis that if he made more improper arguments, she would tell him to sit down with his opening argument only half delivered.
Delivering an award of nominal damages could also “make the world a better place,” Pattis told the jury, because it would “state an inconvenient truth” that despite their pain, the Sandy Hook families cannot dictate what others can listen to and watch.
First on the witness stand, Bill Aldenberg, the FBI agent that was one of the individuals to sue Jones, testified he was on the FBI SWAT team that helped search for survivors following the shooting. He was the first member of his team to enter one of the classrooms where the shooting occurred.
What he saw “overwhelmed the senses.”
At times, Aldenberg’s voice grew husky, he coughed. During his testimony, a tissue box was passed around the gallery among the other plaintiffs.
A few days after the shooting, Aldenberg said he was back in Newtown, this time to provide security at funerals because of the threats made surrounding them.
When he became an attorney that provided legal advice to the FBI in Connecticut, he supervised a victim specialist whose job mostly consisted of dealing with complaints about harassment from Sandy Hook victims.
In 2015, Aldenberg said he became the subject of a conspiracy that claimed he and the father of one of the victims were the same individual.
“I don’t know how to describe it. It’s crushing. It’s basically you’re under attack and you can’t even defend yourself,” Aldenberg said.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.