Father testifies of pain inflicted by Sandy Hook deniers
WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Ian Hockley testified Tuesday that he was ridiculed online as a “party boy” and an actor after posting a video of the memorial service for his 6-year-old son, who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre.
Hockley is the latest family member of the 26 victims of the shooting to testify at the defamation trial of Alex Jones, where a jury is deciding how much the conspiracy theorist must pay for spreading the lie that the shooting was a hoax.
Hockley, who lost his autistic son Dylan in the shooting, testified that he became the target of conspiracy theorists because he smiled during what he found as an uplifting memorial service.
“That is what that video started to attract is people saying this must be fake,” he said. “’He’s an actor. He’s smiling. Oh, you’re out of character,’ all of those things started to appear until we took our video down.”
Earlier in the trial, other victims’ relatives gave often emotional testimony describing how they endured death threats, in-person harassment and abusive comments on social media by people calling the shooting a hoax. Some moved to avoid the abuse.
Judge Barbara Bellis last year found Jones and his company liable by default for damages to plaintiffs without a trial, a consequence for what she called his repeated failure to turn over documents to their lawyers.
The jury of six will determine how much in damages Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, should pay relatives of five children and three adults killed at the school, for saying the shooting didn’t happen and inflicting emotional distress. An FBI agent who responded to the shooting also is a plaintiff.
Last week, Jones got into a heated exchange with plaintiffs’ 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 the courthouse 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.
On Tuesday, Bellis said she would refrain from issuing any gag orders against Jones, but said that could change.
Bellis has ordered Jones not to mention in his testimony several topics, including free speech rights and his claims he only discussed Sandy Hook in a small percentage of his shows.
Defense attorney Norm Pattis is arguing that any damages should be limited and accused the victims’ relatives of exaggerating the harm the lies caused them.
In a similar trial last month in Austin, Texas, home to Jones and Infowars, a jury ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the children killed in the shooting, because of the hoax lies. A third such trial in Texas involving two other parents is expected to begin near the end of the year.