AUSTIN, Texas ― A longtime sidekick for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones took the stand Thursday in a trial that will determine how much Jones and his Infowars website will have to pay a pair of Sandy Hook Elementary parents whose child was killed in the 2012 school massacre.
Attorney Kyle Farrar questioned an Infowars show host, Owen Shroyer, who’s been with the conspiracy outlet since 2016, over the responsibility Infowars had to vet its information before presenting it as fact to an audience of potentially millions of listeners.
Farrar paid particular attention to a 2017 video of Shroyer in which he presented as fact a fake story about the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, that was published on the blog ZeroHedge. (U.S. intelligence officials have accused ZeroHedge of publishing Kremlin propaganda.)
The story in question, by an anonymous user named “ZeroPointNow,” portrayed father Neil Heslin as a liar when he recalled holding his dead son Jesse’s body in a separate interview with NBC News’ Megyn Kelly.
“I lost my son. I buried my son. I held my son with a bullet hole through his head,” Heslin told Kelly in the June 2017 segment.
A jury will soon decide how much money Jones and Infowars will have to pay Heslin and Scarlett Lewis for the pain and harassment they’ve endured because of Jones repeatedly saying the shooting was fake.
Shroyer told viewers in the 2017 Infowars’ segment that “fact checkers” said ZeroHedge’s story had merit. Yet on the stand Thursday, Shroyer admitted he has no idea who “ZeroPointNow” is. And the fact-checker he referenced on that episode was Jim Fetzer, author of the book “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.”
“You did zero to determine if the story was accurate, right?” asked Farrar.
“Correct,” said Shroyer. He later acknowledged, “I could have done a better job.”
“You could have done A job,” Farrar shot back. “You could have done something.”
Shroyer’s testimony Thursday followed two days of questioning of Daria Karpova, an Infowars producer who repeatedly deflected, claimed ignorance and rambled, until at one point District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble interrupted her with a pointed instruction: “You need to focus on the question you’re asked, not just what you feel like saying.”
In his opening statement Tuesday for the plaintiffs, attorney Mark Bankston laid out the lies Jones and his conspiracy website Infowars spread about the shooting.
“Jones told his audience that [Barack] Obama staged Sandy Hook ― and not that Obama ordered the murder of those children but that there were never even children at all,” Bankston said. “Jones said the school was fake, the parents liars, paid actors. The funerals fake, their tears fake.”
Jones already lost his case in September after Gamble rendered a default judgment against Jones for failing to provide court-ordered documents related to the case.
Bankston asked a jury Tuesday to award Heslin and Lewis $150 million in damages.
Jones was repeatedly in and out of the courtroom Thursday, flanked by four private bodyguards.
Jones previously told the court he would be unable to attend parts of the trial because of a medical condition, yet Farrar noted he’s been on the air constantly throughout the week, complaining about the trial and urging viewers to buy more supplements. Jones smoked cigarettes outside of the courthouse during the breaks.
Gamble also warned both Jones and Shroyer on Thursday that they are not to discuss the case outside of the courtroom after they went on Infowars to talk about the trial.
Attorney Andino Reynal, who is representing Jones, was seen giving a middle finger to Bankston at the end of court Wednesday. He apologized to the court on Thursday but was reprimanded again later that day for claiming he didn’t know his clients couldn’t discuss the case outside the court.
“Because you’re just a brand new lawyer, right?” Gamble shot back. “Enough with the ‘Aw shucks, I don’t know the rules of the court.’”