WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Lawyers in the defamation trial of Alex Jones agreed Friday not return him to the stand until next week after a contentious day of testimony Thursday about his promotion of the lie that the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax.
Jones lawyer, Norm Pattis, told the judge he would waive his right to cross-examine Jones and instead call him again as a defense witness next week.
“We think that this will streamline the proceeding, lower the temperature level and help the jury focus on what it needs to decide,” Pattis said.
The jury was sent home around noon.
In his first day of testimony Thursday, Jones got into a heated exchange with plaintiff attorney Christopher Mattei, accusing the lawyer of “ambulance chasing” and saying he was done apologizing for claiming the shooting was staged. In recent years, Jones has acknowledged the massacre happened, but says the families of victims are being used to push a gun-control and anti-free speech agenda.
Outside of the courtroom and on his Infowars show, Jones has referred to the proceedings as a “show trial” and a “kangaroo court” and called Judge Barbara Bellis a tyrant, posting an image of her with lasers shooting from her eyes.
Jones was still complaining about the case, and the limits on what he can say, outside the courthouse Friday.
“Basically it would be like a boxing match where one guy has his arms tied behind his back and a gag in his mouth,” he said. “So this is totally rigged. It’s an absolute total fraud.”
Jones also said that if he could, he would tell the jury to “research history and understand how dangerous it is when they’ll pick one event of speech that they can say is hurtful, to then use that to set the precedent, to try to knock over all the dominoes and take everybody’s free speech away.”
Without Jones to testify, Bellis excused the panel at midday. But, at the request of the plaintiffs’ attorney, repeated her instructions that the jury should not do any outside research, should avoid any news conferences outside the courthouse and avoid media coverage of the trial.
Twenty children and six educators died in the shooting nearly a decade ago in Newtown, Connecticut. The plaintiffs in this trial, which is taking place about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away in Waterbury, include relatives of eight of the victims and an FBI agent who responded to the massacre.
Jones was found liable last year by default for damages to plaintiffs without a trial, a consequence for what the judge called his repeated failures to turn over documents to their lawyers. The six-member jury is now deciding how much Jones and Free Speech Systems, parent of Jones’ Infowars media platforms, should pay the families for defaming them and intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
Pattis is arguing that any damages should be limited and accused the victims’ relatives of exaggerating the harm the lies caused them.
Bellis has ordered Jones not to mention in his testimony several topics, including free speech rights, the percentage of Jones’ shows that discussed Sandy Hook, and whether he profited from those shows or a similar case in Texas.
A jury in that case last month in Austin, Texas, ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the children killed in the shooting. A third trial in Texas is expected to begin near the end of the year.
The Connecticut trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday.
This story was corrected to show that the plaintiffs include relatives of eight Sandy Hook shooting victims, not eight of the children killed.
Associated Press writer Michael Hill contributed to this report from Waterbury.