Neil Heslin, father of six-year-old Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim Jesse Lewis, holds a picture of him with Jesse as he testifies during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee February 27, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC Photo via Getty Images
“I gotta go down to court, where I’ve already been found guilty by a judge for free speech,” Alex Jones declared on Monday afternoon, in the midst of his endless InfoWars broadcast. Lately, in a horrifically meta turn of events, a good chunk of Infowars’ programming has been focused on the ongoing Texas damages trial against Jones and the company which will determine how much Infowars must pay Sandy Hook parents for repeatedly calling the mass shooting that killed their children a hoax and a false flag. (It is merely the first of several such trials.)
That programming and what’s going on in court diverged in a particularly harrowing way on Monday. In court, a forensic psychiatrist testified about the deep trauma and ongoing psychological difficulties that Sandy Hook parents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis suffer after the loss of their son Jesse and the lies told about him on Infowars and elsewhere. Meanwhile, InfoWars continued to present the case as a targeted blow to free speech, and what it’s ghoulishly referring to as “the murder of due process.”
Jones and InfoWars have already lost defamation cases by default in both Texas and Connecticut, brought by Sandy Hook parents who said that his lies about their children deepened their trauma and exposed them to harassment from people influenced by his claims. The first trial in Texas is to determine how much Infowars will have to pay in damages to Heslin and Lewis; a second Texas trial, and another in Connecticut, are slated for later this fall. At the end of Friday’s hearings, Infowars’ attorney Federico Reynal informed Judge Maya Guerra Gamble that he had just learned that Free Speech Systems—Infowars’ parent company—had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in federal court. The trial will continue regardless, and an attorney for the Connecticut plaintiffs told the New York Times the bankruptcy is “a transparent attempt to delay facing the families that he has spent years hurting.”
In most cases, the defendants in a civil case, especially ones for whom things seem to be going disastrously poorly, wouldn’t immediately start talking about it on a live broadcast. Infowars has taken a different approach. “War Room” host Owen Shroyer—also a January 6 defendant—joined Jones on a July 26 broadcast to analyze (“analyze”) the case. (Jones is also giving spot interviews to news outlets in the courthouse hallways and elsewhere, which Infowars is also filming and then broadcasting on its own channel. In a confrontation outside the courthouse, he also furiously told Huffington Post reporter Sebastian Murdock that Murdock and the media are the ones one trial, which is not correct.)
“It’s sad, they don’t understand what happens to you in this case could happen to them,” Shroyer declared, of the public.
Jones called the case “a distraction” from the various purported dark deeds he’s supposedly busy exposing.
“They’ve sued us to distract us from exposing the Great Reset, the collapse of the economy by design, the open borders, the New World Order,” Jones declared. “I promise you, I’m coming here tomorrow” to broadcast, he added, while Shroyer was being “interrogated,” i.e. testifying in court. “They want to get us off mission,” Jones added darkly.
In his testimony, Shroyer admitted to doing no vetting or fact-checking whatsoever before a disastrous live segment in which he read out an article from conspiratorial site Zerohedge, which accused Heslin of lying about cradling Jesse’s body “with a bullet hole through his head.” Shroyer also chuckled while discussing the case, a clip that’s been played in court.
Appearing much meeker in court than he does on air, Shroyer said, of Infowars coverage, “if we make mistakes we apologize,” which is not true. In response to a question from the jury—whose questions on the whole have seemed to be broadly unsympathetic to Infowars—Shroyer added that if he had to do his Sandy Hook coverage over again, “I would not have not covered it all. It’s not subject material I was familiar with and that four minutes of my life has caused tremendous negative effects on my career.”
After his testimony concluded and the jury was led out of the room, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble asked Shroyer if he’d been discussing the trial on Infowars with Jones. Shroyer said he didn’t recall if they’d discussed what precisely happened in court; doing so would be a violation of basic civil procedure rules for witnesses and parties in the suit, who aren’t supposed to discuss the case with one another.
“You think you talked about the trial without talking about what happened at the trial?” Gamble asked.
“I’m not sure,” Shroyer semi-mumbled.
Reynal, Infowars’ lawyer, admitted that he was supposed to inform Shroyer and Jones that they could not discuss the case with each other.
“Because you’re just a brand new lawyer,” Judge Gamble responded, sarcastically. “Enough with the ‘Aw shucks, I don’t know the rules of court,’” she added.
Since then, Shroyer and Jones haven’t appeared on air together to deliver their potted legal analysis. Right-wing lawyer Robert Barnes, however, has been a regular presence, declaring on Monday, for instance, that failing to halt the civil trials after Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy showed the bias of the judges in Texas and Connecticut.
“Neither the judge in Travis County, Texas nor in Connecticut has had any respect or regard for the rule of law,” he declared. Barnes accused the judges of “going completely off the reservation,” an offensive phrase, and added, “We’ll soon find out just how crazy this case can continue to be.” That’s almost certainly true, although probably not in the sense he intended.
As this parallel universe of the trial continues to play out on Infowars, and as Alex Jones weaves in and out of the courtroom to appear on air, Heslin and Lewis are declining interview requests and quietly sitting in court, day in and day out. On Monday, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Roy Lubit was called by the plaintiffs’ attorneys to testify on how both Jesse’s death and the subsequent harassment by Sandy Hook deniers affected Heslin and Lewis. The harassment constitutes “negative social support,” Lubit testified, a factor that he said has been shown to make healing from a traumatic event much more difficult. Both parents “carry a great deal of anxiety about being killed,” he said, and an equally great concern about how Jesse’s legacy is being damaged by constant insinuations that he never existed or didn’t really die.
Their level of anxiety, depression, and fear is notable, Lubit added; Lewis, for instance, has a gun and and a “fairly sophisticated” security system at home, he said, and won’t use her air conditioner for fear that the noise will cause her not to hear a threat. Both parents deal with depression, and Lubit said that Heslin also feels intense and specific guilt because he dropped Jesse off at school that morning, and feels like he would have somehow been able to prevent the attack if he’d stayed a little longer.
Jones’ comments have deepened their trauma and created new wounds, Lubit testified; he said both parents have had nightmares about Jones, specifically. They have also hired security for the trial.
“They are very, very frightened of some follower of Jones trying to kill them,” Lubit said. But while the trial is difficult, he added, their motivation is clear: “To try to decrease the likelihood that some media person will do this to someone else.”
The jury also heard from Michael Crouch, a psychotherapist who’s treated both Heslin and Lewis, although he’s seen Heslin for far longer. Crouch, too, testified that Infowars inflicted new wounds on both parents. Heslin “didn’t want to dignify” Jones’ claims about Sandy Hook for the first few years after the shooting, Crouch testified, but over time, he became obsessed with trying to protect Jesse’s memory. He went on Megyn Kelly’s program in June 2017 and described holding Jesse, hoping it would get through to Jones.
“He was hoping that if he begged and pleaded, Alex Jones would stop,” Crouch said.
Crouch also testified that the day of the shooting, Jesse reportedly told the other children at Sandy Hook to run when the gunman’s weapon jammed, before being shot himself.
“That’s what Scarlett and Neil taught him,” Crouch said, the emotion evident in his voice. “We don’t quit until the job’s over.”