Alex Jones Sandy Hook CT trial: Takeaways from week one and what comes next

Alex Jones’ CT defamation damages trial week one: What to know

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Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis listens to Norman Pattis, attorney for Alex Jones, ask a question at the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury to determine how much Alex Jones owes in damages to eight families of Sandy Hook victims and an FBI agent who responded to the 2012 shooting.Tuesday September 13, 2022, Waterbury, Conn. H John Voorhees III /Ct Hearst Media.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis listens to Norman Pattis, attorney for Alex Jones, ask a question at the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury to determine how much Alex Jones owes in damages to eight families of Sandy Hook victims and an FBI agent who responded to the 2012 shooting.Tuesday September 13, 2022, Waterbury, Conn. H John Voorhees III /Ct Hearst Media.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

WATERBURY — The trial to determine what monetary damages are owed to eight families of Sandy Hook shooting victims and one former FBI agent concluded its first week Friday.

The trial is one of three Jones faces related to lies he told regarding the shooting calling it a "giant hoax" since days after the shooting. Jones was already found guilty of defamation. The current trial is intended to determine how much money Jones owes those victimized by the falsehoods he spread through sustained messaging, alleging the shooting never happened and that victims' families and some of the children killed were actors. Jones was already ordered to pay $49 million to one family following a trial in Texas.

The trial closed its first week discussing Jones's finances, particularly his company's attempt to file for bankruptcy in attempts to delay the proceedings and his association with the company PQPR. PQPR, which is owned by Jones and his parents, provides the supplements sold on Infowars. The company holds the majority of the debt on which Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy is based. 

Norman Pattis, attorney for Alex Jones, gives his opening statement at the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury to determine how much Alex Jones owes in damages to eight families of Sandy Hook victims and an FBI agent who responded to the 2012 shooting.Tuesday September 13, 2022, Waterbury, Conn. H John Voorhees III /Ct Hearst Media.

Norman Pattis, attorney for Alex Jones, gives his opening statement at the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury to determine how much Alex Jones owes in damages to eight families of Sandy Hook victims and an FBI agent who responded to the 2012 shooting.Tuesday September 13, 2022, Waterbury, Conn. H John Voorhees III /Ct Hearst Media.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

“Defendants claim that PQPR is an actual independent entity,” plaintiffs' attorney Alinor Sterling said. “The best evidence we have so far shows that PQPR is wholly controlled by the Jones family, has no employees, and revenue generated by it has been paid into FSS.

“What they should be prohibited from doing is claiming that they are separate entities,” Sterling said.

At issue is a management agreement between the two entities that both Jones and a business manager employed by him testified exists, but which has not yet been produced. 

Attorney Norm Pattis, for the defense, said such a document would corroborate Jones’ claim that the two companies are separate entities. Though Pattis characterized Infowars operation as unintentionally chaotic, he said that has not worked in his clients’ favor. 

“The failure to get simple answers to simple questions,” he said, “has been my clients’ undoing.”

Bellis reels Pattis in

Much of Fridays proceedings dealt with the relevance of a number of evidence exhibits plaintiffs' attorney Chris Mattei said were outside the scope of the trial. The jury was excused early for lunch Friday to discuss issues with the evidence. Much of it dealt with the 2016 presidential election and an interview with media personality Megyn Kelly.

Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis reacts to a statement by one of the plaintiff’s attorney’s that a number of documents they had requested had not been provided as of yet, at the start of the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury on Wednesday, September 14, 2022, Waterbury, Conn. H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media.

Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis reacts to a statement by one of the plaintiff’s attorney’s that a number of documents they had requested had not been provided as of yet, at the start of the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury on Wednesday, September 14, 2022, Waterbury, Conn. H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media.

H John Voorhees III/Hearst Connecticut Media

The discussion echoed the trial's first day, during which Judge Barbara Bellis warned she would cut Pattis' opening arguments short if he didn't stop interjecting politics into the trial. Bellis sustained an objection to showing the exhibits in court, leading her to warn both legal teams she wouldn't tolerate "unprofessional" behavior and attorneys sniping at each other.

At one point, Bellis questioned if Pattis understood the goal of the trial

"We may have a disconnect on what the plaintiff has to prove here," Bellis told Pattis.

Pattis responded saying he misspoke and understood the parameters of the trial.

William Aldenberg and Carlee Soto Parisi

Much of the first day was dedicated to emotional testimony from former FBI Agent William Aldenberg and Carlee Soto Parisi. Aldenberg was an FBI agent who responded to the scene of the shooting. Parisi is the sister of Vicki Soto, a teacher killed in the shooting.

Aldenberg’s image was conflated with that of David Wheeler. Wheeler’s son was killed during the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting in Newtown. Conspiracy theorists have suggested Wheeler and Aldenberg are the same person.

Some of that speculation came from the lack of an FBI insignia on Aldenberg’s tactical gear that day. He said he was talking to other agents and hadn’t had time to finish transferring gear from one vest to another before entering the school.

Plaintiff FBI Agent William Aldenberg tries to compose himself while answering questions during the first day of the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury.Tuesday September 13, 2022, Waterbury, Conn. H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media.

Plaintiff FBI Agent William Aldenberg tries to compose himself while answering questions during the first day of the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury.Tuesday September 13, 2022, Waterbury, Conn. H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media.

H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media

Those conversations before entering now haunt him, he said. While on the stand, Aldenberg broke down, saying he feels at least partially responsible for the harassment Wheeler, a grieving father, has received because he didn’t allow enough time to complete his kit.

Parisi’s testimony recounted her relationship with her sister and the emotionally stressed hours when her family didn’t know her sister’s fate.

Now 29, the then-19-year-old Parisi was photographed while frantically searching for information on her sister. That image of her crying while on the phone has been shared widely across media outlets. 

“I was standing there waiting,” she said. “Hoping that she was going to come down the hill holding her kids hands."

The photo was used by Jones and others to label Parisi as a “crisis actor” who appeared at several other tragedies, including the Boston Marathon bombing.

Brittany Paz

The lion's share of the week's testimony was devoted to Brittany Paz. Paz began testimony at the onset of the trial's second day. Paz, from Shelton, was personally hired by Jones to speak for Free Speech Systems, the company he owns that oversees his Infowars properties. Paz said she requested a copy of Jones' disposition to prepare for the trial, but did not receive it.

Brittany Paz, the corporate representative for Infowars, reviews a photograph handed to her by the plaintiff’s attorney Chris Mattei during the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury on Friday, September 16, 2022, Waterbury, Conn. H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media.
Brittany Paz, the corporate representative for Infowars, reviews a photograph handed to her by the plaintiff’s attorney Chris Mattei during the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury on Friday, September 16, 2022, Waterbury, Conn. H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media.H John Voorhees III/Hearst Connecticut Media

Mattei continually attempted to have Paz testify that Free Speech and Infowars uses Google Analytics software. Paz testified the companies do not, despite Mattei presenting a plethora of emails showing employees communicating about using the software and offering data from Google Analytics to attract potential advertisers.

“Yes, it says this is a report email from Google Analytics,” Paz testified.

The report in the email showed a June 2016 breakdown of purchases from an Infowars internet store.

"Has Free Speech Systems testimony changed having seen that, over whether it used Google Analytics,” Mattei asked Paz.

“No,” she testified.

Alex Jones' extracurriculars

At the same time the trial was happening in Waterbury, Alex Jones was mocking it on his show. During hisWednesday Infowars broadcast, Jones proclaimed his innocence in the trial. Jones also used portions of his four-hour broadcast to urge listeners to buy his book at marked up prices in order to stay on-air.

“You could not act in a more important way to defeat the new world order,” Jones told listeners.

Jones also insinuated the entire trial was a part of a government conspiracy to silence him and insinuated the federal government had recruited pedophiles as judges to be controlled via blackmail.

On Wednesday Jones told his viewers “they” came for the Second Amendment with Sandy Hook and now “they” were coming for the First Amendment, too. He did not expound on who exactly “they” are.

A photograph from evidence, showing Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, that was posted on one of Infowars’ websites is displayed on a video screen during the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury, Connecticut, Friday, September 16, 2022. H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media.
A photograph from evidence, showing Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, that was posted on one of Infowars’ websites is displayed on a video screen during the Alex Jones Sandy Hook defamation damages trial in Superior Court in Waterbury, Connecticut, Friday, September 16, 2022. H John Voorhees III / Hearst Connecticut Media.H John Voorhees III/Hearst Connecticut Media

The First Amendment protects speech from prior restraint by the government but does not protect speech that incites violence or is knowingly false and inflammatory.

Paz was asked to testify about Jones' comments during the trial Friday, but said she had not seen and was unaware of the comments.

What to look for in week 2

Before the jury was dismissed for the week and PQPR was discussed, Paz remained under oath. Mattei closed his initial questioning and Pattis wrapped his cross-examination. Mattei will open the second week Tuesday continuing to question Paz. His questioning ended Friday going over a Free Speech Enterprises flowchart she previously testified did not exist.

More families of victims are likely to testify and Alex Jones is expected to appear. Pattis said Jones is available Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. But it is unlikely he'd appear Tuesday. 

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones testifies last month during trial at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas. On Tuesday, his trial will begin in Waterbury for a defamation lawsuit filed by Sandy Hook families.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones testifies last month during trial at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas. On Tuesday, his trial will begin in Waterbury for a defamation lawsuit filed by Sandy Hook families.

Briana Sanchez / Associated Press

Jones hasn't been present in the Connecticut trial and is not required to attend, and it's not clear how Judge Bellis will handle his presence. If the Texas trial that concluded in August is any indication, Jones’ presence could ignite confrontations in Connecticut. In Texas, for example, Jones engaged with the parents he defamed multiple times during the second week of the trial. In one instance Jones responded out-of-turn in court to the mother of a Sandy Hook boy he defamed, saying, “No, I don’t think you’re an actress.”

And to the father of the slain boy Jones said after the jury had been dismissed for the day, “I let your son down and I apologize about everything.”

Bellis has indicated she would not tolerate distractions in the courtroom.

The trial resumes Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Reporting from Rob Ryser and Jordan Fenster contributed to this story