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Jury begins deliberation in Alex Jones defamation case

Attorney Andino Reynal said in his closing arguments that his client, Alex Jones, acted irresponsibly in spreading lies about the Sandy Hook shooting, but is not responsible for the emotional harm of a victim's family.

AUSTIN, Texas (CN)-- Closing arguments were given Wednesday in the trial to determine how much Infowars host Alex Jones must pay for defaming the father of a six-year-old who was killed during the Sandy Hook school shooting. The Austin-based conspiracy theorist also gave testimony and conceded that the shooting was not a staged event. 

Jones was initially sued in 2018 by Neil Heslin, the father, for his repeated false statements that the shooting was a false flag attack designed to persuade the American public into taking citizens' guns away. 

Jones was found liable by default last year for failing to comply with discovery requests. Heslin is seeking an award of $150 million.

The day began with Jones back on the stand, taking questions from his attorney, Andino Reynal.

“As you sit here today, what is your position on what happened, the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012?” asked Reynal.

“I think Sandy Hook happened and I think it is a terrible event and I think we need to protect our children from mentally ill psychopaths,” said Jones.

Continuing, Jones went on to claim that the United States government had forewarning of the shooting before Travis County District Court Judge Maya Gamble cut him off, reminding him only to answer the question. The judge repeatedly had to remind Jones of this, as he would wander off topic and onto unrelated issues he covers on his show.    

After the defense ended its line of questioning, the plaintiffs began. Mark Bankston, an attorney representing Heslin, asked Jones if he was making a good faith effort to take the trial seriously. Jones responded by saying that he was.

“The truth is, you and your company want the world to believe that this judge is rigging this court proceeding to make sure that a script, a literal script, is being followed,” said Bankston.

Bankston then played a clip of a broadcast on Infowars of a host saying those exact statements and calling the court's credibility into question. The attorney also showed an image from another Infowars broadcast that showed Judge Gamble on fire, which elicited a laugh from the bench. Jones said that the image was of lady justice on fire, not Gamble.

Moving on, Bankston presented several text messages that showed Jones corresponding with others about Sandy Hook. Jones had testified previously that he did not have such records on his cell phone.

“So you did get my text messages and said you didn't, nice trick,” Jones said to the attorney.

“You did not give these text messages to us… do you know where I got this?” Bankston asked. “Did you know that 12 days ago, your attorney messed up and sent me a digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you have sent for the past two years... that is how I know you lied to me.”

The back and forth between Bankston and Jones continued, with the attorney asserting that Jones testified under oath that he searched his phone for texts that were related to Sandy Hook and found nothing. First dodging the question, Jones argued back saying that the plaintiffs lied about not getting records. Bankston asked Jones if he understood what perjury meant and reminded him that he may cite his right to not self-incrimination. Jones adamantly denied that he had lied under oath.

Another piece of Infowars content that was played before the jury was a clip of the conspiracy theorist saying the members of the jury were being manipulated and “do not know what planet they are on.” 

That comment came up again when the jury was allowed to write anonymous questions for Jones to answer. One question, read by Gamble, asked, “are you aware that this jury consists of 16 intelligent and fair-minded citizens who are not being improperly influenced in any way?”

“I do not think that [the jurors] are operatives, I do not think that you are a part of a false flag, I do not think that you are bad people… I just am very critical of the whole process that I have been through so far…,” responded Jones. 

Closing arguments began with attorney Kyle Farrar, who is also representing Heslin. Farrar said that on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, Jones planted the seeds of disinformation that over time bore fruit in more followers and money. The attorney drew upon several instances in which Jones ignored calls for him to stop spreading lies about the shooting, disregarded journalistic ethics and put the profit of his platform over the families who suffered from his claims.

“Speech is free but you have to pay for your lies… you have to pay for the harm that you caused,” Farrar said to the jury. “This is your opportunity to hold Alex Jones accountable for the harm he did.”

Jones's attorney, Andino Reynal, focused his closing arguments on questioning the evidence the plaintiffs presented and if it amounted to any real damages that were caused by his client. Additionally, Reynal echoed a similar argument Jones has made on this online show, that Heslin’s attorneys are manipulating his grief to silence Infowars.

“Alex ran with a story and he made a mistake, he trusted the wrong people, he was going through a difficult time in his life and he made a mistake,” said Reynal. “That mistake was weaponized by the same forces that descended on the scene at Sandy Hook.” 

Those forces, according to Reynal, are the mainstream news media and politicians. 

Reynal also minimized the possible effect Jones’ coverage may have had on Heslin, citing that from 2012 to 2018, Infowars dedicated around 20 hours of coverage to the Sandy Hook shooting.

"We spent more time talking about Sandy Hook [in this trial] than Alex Jones and his organization spent in over six years, and they want to tell you that that drove people insane?" Reynal asked the jury.

Responding to Reynal’s closing arguments, Farrar said that is not a defense to say that Jones should not be punished since the majority of his time was not spent defaming Heslin.

Heslin has requested the jury award him $150 million. Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy last Friday. The filing is not expected to disrupt the jury's award of damages, if any.

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