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Alex Jones’ lawyer compares him to ‘a mad prophet,’ but says he deserves fair verdict in Sandy Hook defamation trial

Hartford Courant logoHartford Courant 10/6/2022 Edmund H. Mahony, Hartford Courant
InfoWars founder Alex Jones speaks to the media outside Waterbury Superior Court during his trial on Sept. 21, 2022, in Waterbury, Connecticut. © Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images North America/TNS InfoWars founder Alex Jones speaks to the media outside Waterbury Superior Court during his trial on Sept. 21, 2022, in Waterbury, Connecticut.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Alex Jones built a media machine that generated enormous profit by spreading conspiratorial lies and the families of Sandy Hook shooting victims who were among his targets deserve millions of dollars in compensation, the family lawyers told the jury as their defamation case against Jones neared an end Thursday.

In his closing argument, family lawyer Christopher Mattei did not suggest a damage amount, but presented the jury with a formula for reaching one: Determine fair compensation for a person harmed by a single lie, told once. Then multiply that sum by 550 million, a figure that an expert trial witness for the families said reflects Jones’ massive audience reach across his broadcast, internet and social media platforms.

“You may say that is astronomical,” Mattei said. “It is. It is. It is exactly what Alex Jones did. He built a lie machine to push this stuff out. He built a lie machine. … But you know something, that’s not enough. We know that 550 million is just a fraction of the people that got that message.”

“You have seen evidence of defamation on a historic scale,” Mattei said.

“When he took the stand here, I told him he put a target on their backs and that is what he did,” Mattei told the jury. “He knew his army was coming after them. Every single one of these families was drowning in grief and Alex Jones put his foot right on top of them.”

Jones’ lawyer, Norm Pattis, conceded his client’s claims, that the school shooting was a hoax and the grieving parents were actors, is despicable. But Pattis accused lawyers for the families of appealing to emotion by doing what they accuse Jones of — fomenting anger.

“Alex invented fear,” Pattis said. “Alex invented anger. Alex invented what is wrong with this world. Kill Alex and we’ll all live happily ever after. … The angrier you get the more money they will get. You are sort of like a pinball machine: Put enough money in and pull the lever and maybe all that money will pop out.”

“I suspect Alex Jones will never be silenced. He is a mad prophet warning of the dystopia to come,” Pattis said. “The easy thing to do would be to tar and feather Alex Jones. But that is not what the law requires. The law requires that you serve equally, coolly and dispassionately to evaluate the evidence and render a fair, just and reasonable verdict.”

“They are asking for damages for their distress,” Pattis said. “And from the plaintiff’s perspective, there cannot be enough. … I am asking for equal justice under the law.”

Closing arguments lasted nearly three hours. After about an hour in their deliberation room, the jury was excused shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday and will return Friday morning.

The relatives accuse Jones of subjecting them to a decade of harassment and threats with repeated broadcasts, beginning within hours of the mass shooting, that the murders never took place, but were part of a hoax contrived by a cabal of globalists bent on winning support for gun control and disarming the population. The relatives and victims were actors, Jones said.

The suits accuse Jones of defamation, the intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy and, significantly, violation of the state unfair trade practices law. If the families persuade the jury that Jones spread lies and fear for profit, it could find him responsible for damages under the trade practices law, which puts no limit on compensation.

The jury will only decide what compensation is due the families as the result of a rare default ruling a year ago by Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis that settled all questions of liability for the relatives. The default was a punitive sanction against Jones for ignoring court orders and falling to engage in the pretrial exchange of evidence.

Because of the default ruling, the Waterbury trial has been limited to the question of how much those suing Jones are entitled to as compensation for living through decades of abuse, on-line and in-person harassment and death threats by people who agree with Jones’ assertions that the school massacre never happened.

In his closing Thursday, Mattei hammered away at two points: Jones used his broadcasts to “demonize” the relatives and he did it because he knew Sandy Hook hoax programming caused his audience to grow and sales to spike on retail websites were he sold products like nutritional supplements and survivalist gear.

Mattei interspersed his argument with video clips and recorded depositions the jury has been shown almost daily since the trial began. In one, an executive of Jones’ company was asked why he didn’t bother reading a 2013 Connecticut law enforcement report that refuted Jones’ hoax claims.

“I don’t know what I was thinking at the time,” the executive said, on a video deposition.

“That’s not true,” Mattei told the jury. “They were thinking dollar signs.”

Mattei showed the jury chart indicating traffic to one of Jones’ sites tripled and sales increased five fold after hoax broadcasts.

“It’s a lie, but it is working,” Mattei said. “Look at the audience increases. Why wouldn’t he let these families try to heal and move on with their lies? This is why.”

The opposing lawyers have occasionally had difficulty controlling their tempers during the trial, which began September 13 and Thursday was one of those occasions.

Pattis has been criticized by his opponents for trying to suggest through his questions of the relatives that some of the harm they say they have suffered in the suit is exaggerated as a result of a deep disagreement between the far right Jones and those suing him over politics and gun control.

“I would suggest — and I am going to be ridiculed for this, maligned, walked on and my name dragged through mud yet again,” Pattis said. “That’s OK. Did they exaggerate some of the harm for the sake of politics, for the sake of guns and the desire to make sure this never happens to someone again? That no one else never loses a child?

“It makes you uncomfortable that I ask that question. But it is a fair question and one you are going to have to wrestle with.”

In rebuttal, family lawyer Josh Koskoff accused Pattis of injecting politics into a case that should not be about politics in an attempt to divide the jury.

“Why else, after you hear time and time again that this is not a political case?” Koskoff said. “Why else would he bring it up again?”

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