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Parents of Sandy Hook shooting victim take the stand in defamation case against Alex Jones

Neil Heslin, the father of a victim of the 2012 Sandy Hook School shooting told the jury that Alex Jones, host of Infowars, made his life a living hell by spreading the lie that the shooting was a hoax.

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — The parents of Jesse Lewis, a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, recounted their experience of losing their child and hearing false claims that the shooting was a staged event from Infowars host Alex Jones.

The testimony given Tuesday was part of the second phase of the defamation trial against Jones. Last year, Travis Country District Court Judge Maya Gamble found Jones guilty by default of defamation and intentionally inflicting emotional distress after the radio host failed to comply with discovery requests. Having been found guilty, the jury is now tasked with determining how much money Jones should pay as punishment. 

Neil Heslin, Jesse Lewis' father, was the first to take the stand on Tuesday morning, taking questions from his attorney Wesley Ball. Heslin began by sharing why testifying in his case against Jones was important to him.

“It has been a long time coming… I feel very good about being here today to face Alex Jones and hold him accountable for what he said and did to me,” said Heslin. 

In the nearly 10 years since the shooting, Heslin said that he continues to suffer from panic attacks and anxiety that are a result of the lies told about his son by Jones and his followers. During his emotional testimony, Heslin said that he sees it as his job to protect his son Jesse’s legacy and that the claims that the shooting was a hoax have made it hard for him to heal from the tragedy. 

Taking the stand after Heslin was Scarlet Lewis, who shared her own experiences dealing with people who believed the shooting to be a hoax. As mentioned earlier by other witnesses, it was revealed that Lewis had purchased a gun as a form of protection from people who claim she was an actor. When asked by her attorney why she felt the need to get a gun, Lewis said Jones and the people who support Infowars are not grounded in reality and that she fears what one of those people might do to her family.

“I am a single mother, responsible for the safety of both of my boys and I was not able to keep one of them safe,” said Lewis. “I am going to keep my surviving son safe.” 

The court took a break for lunch and upon returning, the parent’s attorneys asked that a clip from Jones’ show, broadcasted earlier the same day, be played for the jury. 

On his show, Jones called Heslin “slow” and speculated that he has autism. Jones's attorney, Andino Reynal, made several objections to the video and said that the clip was misleading and deceptively edited since there were parts of Jones saying an apology that was cut. Judge Gamble allowed the clip to be played while Lewis gave her testimony. 

“How does it make you feel hearing him say that about the father of your son?” asked her attorney Wesley Ball.

“It makes me feel astounded in a bad way, horrific, horrific,” said Lewis.

During the same Tuesday broadcast, Jones said that the opposing side's attorneys and Judge Gamble were "demonically possessed" and called the trial a show.

Heslin and Lewis are asking the jury to award them $150 million. When asked why she was seeking damages, Lewis addressed Jones directly, saying that getting him to stop talking about Sandy Hook will not be enough. 

“Alex has been asked to stop and he has continued to talk about this even today,” said Lewis. “I do not think you understand the repercussions of going on air and lying, calling this a hoax, you do not understand that and I do not think you will understand unless there is some form of punishment to make this feel real.”

After completing her testimony, Alex Jones, the final witness of the trial and sole person called on by the defense was called. His attorney, Reynal, asked him detailed questions regarding his start in radio broadcasting and the creation of Infowars. Jones used many questions to contrast himself to what he called the “corporate media” and to accuse news outlets of taking his words out of context.

Nearing the end of the day, Judge Gamble called for a break and sent the jury out of the courtroom. Attorney Mark Bankston, who also represents the parents, filed a motion for sanctions against Reynal and Jones, claiming that they went against the judge's orders not to discuss specific topics before the jury and are intentionally attempting to get a mistrial. Gamble asked to put the motion in writing and will address it post-trial. 

Speaking directly to Reynal and Jones, Gamble explained what may and may not be said during witness testimony.  

“You may not say to this jury that you complied with discovery, that is not true,” said Gamble. “You may also not say that you are bankrupt, that is not true, you may have filed for bankruptcy but that does not make someone bankrupt. You must tell the truth when you testify. This is not your show. Just because you claim to believe something is true does not make them so.”

After Gamble left the courtroom, Jones began offering an apology to Heslin and Lewis. The parent’s attorney’s then stepped in to separate Jones from their clients, to which Jones exclaimed they were deceiving the parents.

The trial is expected to begin closing arguments Wednesday.

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