Alex Jones trial - live: Sandy Hook mother tells jury she was sent pictures of dead kids by hoax believers

Alex Jones’s second defamation trial over his “hoax” lies about the Sandy Hook massacre has entered its third week in Connecticut court.

Testimony resumed Tuesday morning after a tense conclusion last week, which saw the Infowars host delay his return to the witness box following a rant at reporters outside the courthouse.

His own defence attorneys waived their right to cross-examine him on Friday, and he is now expected to resume testimony as a witness for his defence next week after the judge decided against punishing him for urging jurors to do their own research.

Testifying on Thursday, Jones shouted that he was “done apologising” for his egregious claims about the shooting under questioning from the plaintiffs’ lawyer while families of victims broke down in tears in the courtroom.

Witnesses on Tuesday included Jillian Soto, sister of teacher Vicki, and Ian and Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son Dylan was killed in the shooting. They told the court about the harassment and threats they received including Ms Hockley being sent photos of dead children, and Ms Soto being accosted at a charity event.

Key Points

  • What’s at stake for Alex Jones in the second Sandy Hook defamation trial?

  • Alex Jones defends furious rant in front of crying Sandy Hook families

  • Victim’s father tells of threats from conspiracy theorists

  • Former Infowars employee says Alex Jones had control over guests, video headlines

  • Sandy Hook mother recalls being sent pictures of dead children by hoax believers

  • Sister of Sandy Hook teacher describes being accosted at a charity fun run

Court adjourns for the day.

21:39 , Oliver O'Connell

Court is adjourned for the day.

Judge Bellis reminds the jury to report if they see any coverage or media regarding the case.

Proceedings resume tomorrow at 10am.

21:38 , Oliver O'Connell

On cross-examination, Norm Pattis asks when Ms Soto first heard of Alex Jones and when she first saw a video of him. She replies that she has only seen them in court.

He also asks if Matthew Mills, the man who accosted her, mentioned Jones or Infowars — she says he did not.

Ms Soto says she has also never tried contacting Jones.

21:34 , Oliver O'Connell

Jillian cries while talking about the effect of the murder and the conspiracy theories on her mother who runs their foundation. She says the death of her sister broke her.

She adds that they still get messages to this day: “We still get messages on our Facebook page saying why are we going after more money, we’re never satisfied, we’re actors.”

21:27 , Oliver O'Connell

The family was harassed in person as well. Ms Soto recalls an incident at a charity run to raise money for the memorial funds they set up in her sister’s name.

Ms Sotot worries that she will have to explain what happened to her children before someone tries to tell them that their aunt was not real.

21:10 , Oliver O'Connell

Wanting to speak out about their sister and who she was to keep her memory alive, Jillian and two other family members gave a live interview during which they noticed it was snowing — something that Vicki loved.

Their smiles and laughter at it being a sign from Vicki made it onto YouTube. They began to see hateful comments about themselves and their sister, saying that they were hoaxers and wouldn’t be laughing if they had really lost someone.

On social media, she received thousands of hostile messages. In real life, she was confronted in person on the first day of class at UConn-Waterbury.

21:02 , Oliver O'Connell

Jillian had been on a ski trip to Vermont, with two friends and her boyfriend at the time on the day of the Sandy Hook massacre.

Her mom called to tell her there was a shooting at the school.

She cries as she recalls driving home to Connecticut. As with most of the other family members who have testified, that day, she had never heard of Alex Jones.

He was already on the air at this point talking about the shooting.

Witness: Jillian Soto-Marino

20:44 , Oliver O'Connell

Next in the witness box is Jillian Soto-Marino, younger sister of Vicki Soto, the first grade teacher murdered at Sandy Hook along with five other teachers and 20 children.

We have already heard from Carlee, another sister from the Soto family.

20:24 , Oliver O'Connell

Mr Owens talks about a video they produced on the Fukushima nuclear plant accident in which Jones sent employees to California to measure radiation on the coast to support the idea that it was causing high radiation levels, and this was being covered up by the government.

He says Jones wanted to sell iodine which lessens the impact of nuclear radiation on the body. Mr Owens recalls adding images of the Japanese nuclear plant into ads for the pills.

The employees posted videos saying they had found no radiation and Jones got angry with them. He would yell and break things.

Mr Owens recalls being told by Jones that he would get a bonus if he liked work they produced — something that backed up his wild claims.

Court goes on recess.

Witness: Joshua Owens, former Infowars employee

20:10 , Oliver O'Connell

Deposition video now plays of Joshua Owens, a former employee of Infowars who started in May 2013 and left in April 2017.

He says he took the job because he wanted to work for Infowars and Alex Jones. He believed them trustworthy, but came to regret working there.

19:59 , Oliver O'Connell

In a brief cross-examination, attorney Norm Pattis asks Ms Hockley how much her life insurance premium is ($126/month) and why she does not have a gun to protect herself — she says she has not made that decision yet.

Having lived in England for 18 years, Ms Hockley says she was not familiar with gun violence as it does not happen there. Asked if she thinks Jones has a particular view on guns she says she does not know what he actually believes and could be reading in a script.

Everytime Jones says “Sandy Hook parents” he is referring to her as well as the other parents.

19:50 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Hockley is the co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, an anti-gun violence organisation that also focuses on trying to keep children safe from bullying and self-harm.

She closes out her testimony, saying through tears, that she worries for her surviving son Jake, who is now 18, and remembers overhearing him talking to a friend about Alex Jones and that was when she realised how much he knows.

19:45 , Oliver O'Connell

The harassment continues even now. A Facebook message she received just a week before the trial is entered into evidence in which she is called an actor and asked how she can sleep at night.

The tragedy is referred to in the message as “Sandy Hoax”.

19:42 , Oliver O'Connell

Describing her divorce from husband Ian, she says it was because they grieved differently and they lost the ability to communicate.

“We don’t dislike each other, we just couldn’t find our way back,” she adds.

Living alone as a single mother she keeps weapons by her bed and moved to a house on a quiet cul-de-sac in which she and others could see everyone coming and going.

19:39 , Oliver O'Connell

The abuse became worse with encouragement to harm herself and Ms Hockley got in touch with the FBI victim’s specialist.

She feared that someone writing threats might try and follow through with them with actions and eventually someone was arrested for stalking her.

“I was very scared that one of them would go from sending mail to actually acting out on the things they said they were going to do.”

She took out a large insurance policy to ensure her son would be taken care of if something happened to her. She still pays the premium today.

19:31 , Oliver O'Connell

Ms Hockley says after her son’s funeral, she and her husband and surviving child, left town for a while. When they returned they stayed at what she calls “the transition house” lent to them by a neighbour.

During this time she started looking up information about the other parents and came across what was written in the comments sections of articles referring to the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

She remembers the “horrible things being said”.

“I was incredulous…what sane person, what reasonable person would ever think this was a hoax? So I would respond under my own name saying this really happened. I would respond, and that was the wrong thing to do.”

She began to receive direct messages, emails, phone calls to friends, and eventually mail to the house. This included pictures of dead children because she was told as a crisis actor she wouldn’t know what dead children looked like.

Nicole Hockley returns to the witness stand

19:20 , Oliver O'Connell

Nicole Hockley returns to the witness stand and we get more detail about her son Dylan’s short life.

She recalls his teacher Vicki Soto as a “very lovely, warm, beautiful, beautiful woman” who was “very engaging”.

Of Dylan, she recalls he was making progress with his speech but his writing was still a big scrawl.

He was a happy boy who loved to cuddle and didn’t realise he was different from anyone else.

Speaking about his food preferences she remembers he would eat six squares of Hershey’s chocolate after his lunch and dinner.

He required vitamins to supplement his food and on the day he died, he finished them all for the first time and was proud of himself.

There is audible weeping in the courtroom.

Court resumes

19:13 , Oliver O'Connell

As the court returns from lunch, there is a sidebar in which it is discussed when Alex Jones might return to the witness stand.

It was originally intended that Jones would be back tomorrow, but it is now understood that he will return next week.

Judge Bellis is wondering what to tell the jury.

ICYMI: Johnny Depp’s lawyer weighs in on Alex Jones case

19:10 , Megan Sheets

Johnny Depp’s attorney offered his two cents on Jones’ latest defamation trial last week, saying that “lies are not protected” by the First Amendment.

Benjamin Chew, who was one of the lead members of Mr Depp’s legal team during his successful defamation case against Amber Heard, appeared on Law & Crime on Tuesday to speak about the case currently playing out in a courtroom in Connecticut.

Mr Chew pointed out that the courtroom is “a very different environment” to the extremist’s conspiracy show Infowars when it comes to being able to spread “heinous lies”.

“Alex Jones ain’t in Russia anymore. This is the United States and lies which hurt people – especially heinous lies, horrific lies, are not and have never been protected under the First Amendment,” he said.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has more:

Johnny Depp’s lawyer weighs in on Alex Jones’s Sandy Hook defamation trial

WATCH: Alex Jones loses his temper on the witness stand

18:40 , Megan Sheets

Tuesday’s testimony has been very tame compared to what unfolded last Thursday, when Alex Jones faced questioning from the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

He lost his temper after attorney Christopher Mattei asserted that he put a “target on the back” of victims’ families by calling them “crisis actors” in the 2012 elementary school shooting he branded a hoax in broadcasts to millions.

“I’ve already said I’m sorry hundreds of times. And I’m done saying sorry,” Jones shouted across the courtroom.

Watch the chaotic exchange below:

Alex Jones promoting new book as trial continues

18:16 , Megan Sheets

While his attorney fights for him in court, Alex Jones appears to be spending a good deal of his time promoting his new book The Great Reset.

On Tuesday morning, Infowars published an article praising Washington Post literary critic Ron Charles for his review of the book, which noted that may have been purposely barred from the New York Times bestseller list. The Times denied that assertion.

In a special broadcast over the weekend, Jones reportedly said that he would not attend the trial this week because he fears Russia is on the brink of launching World War Three and he doesn’t want to be in Connecticut when it happens.

New witness: Mother Nicole Hockley

17:55 , Megan Sheets

Nicole Hockley, the mother of Sandy Hook victim Dylan and wife of previous witness Ian Hockley, is now on the witness stand.

She spoke at length about how she fell in love with Ian and became eager to have children before welcoming son Jake. Eighteen months later, Dylan was born six weeks ahead of his due date. Ms Hockley fondly recalled the day she was finally allowed to bring him home from the hospital.

Like her husband, Ms Hockley said she struggled with Dylan’s autism diagnosis at age three. But she said he remained a happy and healthy child, as the court was shown a new photo of the family.

Nicole and Ian Hockley are seen with their son Dylan in a photo shown at Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook defamation trial (Waterbury court)
Nicole and Ian Hockley are seen with their son Dylan in a photo shown at Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook defamation trial (Waterbury court)

The court is now on a lunch break.

New witness: Infowars employee Nico Acosta

17:28 , Megan Sheets

Now on the stand is Nico Acosta, a former Infowars employee whose testimony will seek to show jurors how directly involved Jones was in booking guests on the show - despite his repeated claims to the contrary.

Mr Acosta testified that notorious Sandy Hook denier Wolfgang Halbig was the most frequent guest to talk about the shooting on Infowars.

He said he was the one who booked Mr Halbig as a guest at the instruction of Jones, noting that Mr Halbig would not have been brought on without Jones’ approval.

Asked if Jones was “enthused, excited and eager” to have Mr Halbig on the show, Mr Acosta said: “Correct.”

He testified that he personally would not have trusted Mr Halbig on a guest if he had his own show.

Mr Acosta also said that Jones was responsible for headlining each segment uploaded to YouTube, including a clip titled: “FBI Says Nobody Killed at Sandy Hook Massacre.”

He concluded by saying that he left Infowars in 2018 because he “couldn’t handle the job anymore”.

“I reached a saturation point with the toxicity,” he said.

Mr Acosta’s testimony featured audio only, with a screengrab of his deposition shown in the court.

Father faces brief cross-examination

17:06 , Megan Sheets

On cross-examination, Jones’ attorney Norm Pattis questioned how much money Mr Hockley earns for running the family’s foundation Dylan’s Wings of Change.

Mr Hockley replied that he makes just $36,000 per year, after explaining that he was fired from his previous job at IBM because he requested an additional year off to run the foundation.

The father also explained that he first became aware of Jones following his attack on fellow parent Lenny Pozner, who led efforts to stop those spreading conspiracy theorists around the shooting.

Mr Hockley’s testimony has now concluded and the plaintiffs are asking to play recorded testimony from Infowars employee Nico Acosta.

Father tells of trolls calling victim parents liars

16:55 , Megan Sheets

After the break, Mr Hockley began describing how he and other parents were accused of faking their sadness over the deaths of their children in the wake of Infowars hoax claims.

In one post, an internet troll shared a photo of Mr Hockley and his wife smiling with their surviving son after the shooting. The caption reads: “Just look at his dimples...never cried once, just proving further Sandyhook is a Hoax.”

The court was also shown a photo of a card that was placed on the windshield of Mr Hockley’s car accusing parents of being in on the hoax.

The father said such harassment forced him to be “on guard” at all times in public.

A video was then played in court in which Jones talked about “photos of kids still alive” on his Infowars show, telling viewers: “They think we’re so dumb, it’s hidden in plain sight.”

The plaintiffs’ side concluded its questioning of Mr Hockley by pulling up a picture of him with his son.

Video shows Infowars contributor ranting about Sandy Hook 'hoax’

16:17 , Megan Sheets

With Mr Hockley still on the stand, the jury was shown an Infowars broadcast in which contributor Wolfgang Halbig claimed Sandy Hook Elementary School was a “toxic waste dump” turned into a school for the sole purpose of staging a mass shooting.

Mr Hockley told how he and other families were shaken by baseless conspiracies like the ones presented by Mr Halbig.

He said attacks on his family and others ramped up as he promoted Dylan’s Wings of Change, a foundation he created in his son’s honour.

“Pictures from the memorial were sent to me again, ‘Hey it’s party boy Hockley, the fake parent of Sandy hook, great photoshop dude,’” he said.

Morning recess was called as Jones’ attorney Norm Pattis said he was given no nice of the exhibit containing the “party boy” comment.

Court shown photo of six-year-old victim Dylan

15:54 , Megan Sheets

During Mr Hockley’s testimony, the plaintiffs’ team pulled up a family photo as the father recounted the last time he saw six-year-old Dylan.

He said he looked into the boy’s bedroom as he slept the night before the shooting, not wanting to wake him after returning home from work late.

The next morning, Mr Hockley said he had to leave for work early, without saying goodbye to Dylan or his brother.

Hours later he received an email about Sandy Hook Elementary School being placed on lockdown - a term he didn’t immediately recognise because he is British.

At 3pm that day, he learned that his son had been killed.

Dylan’s body was cremated, and his funeral featured his favourite song - “Hallelujah” from the Shrek soundtrack.

“It’s just completely wrong and topsy turvy, the wrong way round, to bury your own child with so few years,” Mr Hockley told the court.

New witness: Father Ian Hockley

15:39 , Megan Sheets

The first plaintiffs’ witness called on Tuesday was Ian Hockley, whose son Dylan died in his teacher’s arms during the Sandy Hook massacre.

Mr Hockley explained how Dylan was diagnosed with autism at age three after showing signs of slow development, including with speaking and walking.

He says the diagnosis was difficult to come to terms with, telling the court: “I guess you have all your hopes and dreams and thoughts of who your child might be.”

Jones will not testify this week

15:35 , Megan Sheets

Before testimony kicked off, Alex Jones’ attorney Norm Pattis announced that he will not be taking the stand this week.

It was initially speculated that he would return to testify as a defence witness as early as tomorrow, after last week’s theatrics saw his lawyers waive their right to cross-examine him on the stand as a plaintiff’s witness following his outburst in court.

Mr Pattis said his client will instead testify next week, possibly on Wednesday (5 October).

Alex Jones is ‘biggest bully I’ve ever faced’ says mother of Sandy Hook victim

15:18 , Oliver O'Connell

The mother of one of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre has described Alex Jones as the “biggest bully I’ve ever faced”.

Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son Jesse Lewis was murdered in the 2012 massacre, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that testifying at the far-right conspiracy theorist’s first defamation trial was the “hardest thing” she has done since losing her child – but that she had to stand up to try to stop him from bullying others.

Rachel Sharp reports.

Mother of Sandy Hook victim describes Alex Jones as ‘biggest bully I’ve ever faced’

Court is back in session

15:07 , Oliver O'Connell

Court is back in session with Judge Barbara Bellis on the bench.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Alinor Sterling argues they made a motion for an order to prevent a mistrial after the Alex Jones press conference on the courthouse steps on Friday — and the others prior to that.

During one, he told the jury to do their own research. Mr Jones’s lawyer Norm Pattis argues that his comments did not reach the jury.

‘We’re fighting the deep state, we need money’: Jones shamelessly asks for donations during testimony

14:58 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Jones shamelessly asked people to donate cryptocurrency to Infowars as he took the stand and testified in a Sandy Hook defamation trial.

Jones even took the time to give the web address for donating cryptocurrency to his right-wing media company as a lawyer for the victims’ families pressed him on ways he has monetised claims the school massacre was a hoax.

The conspiracy theorist told the court that his audience had already donated $9m worth of cryptocurrency, which had gone directly into his personal wallet. But he insists that he had transferred all but $60,000 to his media company, Free Speech Systems.

Graeme Massie has the details.

Alex Jones asks for Infowars cryptocurrency donations during Sandy Hook testimony

Alex Jones shouts at crying Sandy Hook parents: ‘I’m done apologising’

14:42 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Jones shouted that he was “done apologising” for spreading lies that the Sandy Hook massacre was a “hoax” as family members of some of the victims looked on crying in court.

The courtroom in Connecticut descended into chaos on Thursday as the far-right conspiracy theorist took the stand in his defamation case and refused to acknowledge any responsibility for causing a decade of harassment to the victims’ families.

Rachel Sharp reports.

Alex Jones shouts ‘I’m done apologising’ at Sandy Hook parents crying in court

Alex Jones believes his furious Sandy Hook trial rant ‘destroyed’ lawyer of crying victim families

14:27 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Jones has bizarrely claimed that his irate outburst during testimony at the second defamation trial over his Sandy Hook hoax lies did more damage to the opposition than himself.

The Infowars host fumed at reporters outside the court in Waterbury, Connecticut, on Friday morning as his defence attorney Norm Pattis was inside telling the judge he would waive the right to cross examine Mr Jones.

Mr Pattis said he hoped the move would “lower the temperature” in court and that Mr Jones will take the stand at a later point in the trial as a witness for the defence.

The trial resumes at 10am.

Alex Jones claims his furious Sandy Hook trial rant ‘destroyed’ opposing legal team

ICYMI: Alex Jones grilled about his own defamation case against progressive group

13:55 , Oliver O'Connell

Alex Jones was grilled on the witness stand about a defamation lawsuit he brought against individuals who falsely claimed he sent child porn to the Sandy Hook victims’ families – during his own defamation trial for lying that the 2012 mass shooting was a “hoax”.

In September 2019, the right-wing conspiracy theorist sued progressive online news show The Young Turks and computer programmer Brianna Wu for libel after they reported that he had sent child exploitation material to parents of the Sandy Hook victims.

Rachel Sharp has the details about the line of questioning put to the conspiracy theorist.

Alex Jones grilled about Young Turks child porn defamation suit at Sandy Hook trial

Welcome back to the third week of trial

13:34 , Megan Sheets

The third week of Alex Jones’ defamation trial is set to resume at 10am in Waterbury, Connecticut, with continued testimony from state witnesses.

Below, The Independent’s Graig Graziosi reminds what’s at stake for the Infowars host:

Why Alex Jones is facing trial again over his Sandy Hook ‘hoax’ lies