The parent of a child killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting testified Tuesday that conspiracist Alex Jones must be held accountable for the lies he spread about his dead child over the years.
“Alex Jones’ apologies are worthless,” Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old boy Jesse Lewis died in the 2012 shooting, testified. “At this stage, any apology would not be sincere, it’s gone too late. I don’t even know if Alex is capable of a sincere apology.”
Jones is on trial in Austin, Texas, where his conspiracy outlet Infowars is based, to determine how much money he will ultimately have to pay to parents Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son was killed in the shooting that left 20 kids and six adults dead. For years, Jones and others connected to him have peddled that lie that the shooting was fake.
Heslin made clear in court Tuesday that he isn’t after Jones’ money, but that hitting him in his wallet may be the only way to get him to stop his lies.
“I believe it’s the only way to put a stop to it, to prevent this from happening anymore,” Heslin said. “There’s got to be a strong deterrent to put a stop to what is being said.”
Heslin described his son as an “energetic” child who loved animals and helping others. The day of the shooting, Jesse led his classmates to safety and likely saved lives. Jones was not in court during Heslin’s testimony.
“It’s disrespectful,” Heslin told the jury of Jones’ absence in the court. “I think it’s a cowardly act of Alex Jones not to face me here in this courtroom. He doesn’t have the courage to sit here and face me.”
While Heslin testified, Jones went on his Infowars program to accuse Heslin of being “slow” and “on the Spectrum.”
Heslin described the harassment he has faced over years, including an incident he described as “a few years back” in which his house and vehicles were shot at.
“I fear for my life, for my safety, for my family’s safety,” Heslin said. He and Lewis have had private security with them as the trial, now in its second week, plays out.
In her own testimony Tuesday, Lewis described a Christmas morning after the shooting when a man drove up to the home to take pictures. Lewis said she now has a gun for protection from those who might seek to harm her remaining son.
“I’m a single mother responsible for the safety of both my boys, and I was not able to keep one of them safe,” Lewis testified. “So I am going to keep my surviving son safe.”
Later on Tuesday, Jones showed up to the courtroom and listened to Lewis’ testimony. Lewis took the opportunity to speak to Jones directly, shaming him several times for his constant lies.
“I wanted to tell you to your face, because I wanted you to know I am a mother first and foremost, and I know you’re a father,” Lewis said to Jones. “My son existed, and you’re still on your show today trying to say I’m fine, I’m an actress, I’m deep state. Stop.”
She asked if Jones had empathy and told him he has played a role in polarizing this country. When she spoke of Jesse, she told Jones to pay attention to her words.
“It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this, that we have to implore you ― not just implore, punish you ― because you won’t stop lying, saying it’s a hoax,” Lewis said. “It happened. It’s surreal what’s going on in here.”
A voicemail message was also played in court from Infowars listener Lucy Richards, who was sentenced to five months in prison for sending death threats to Sandy Hook parent Lenny Pozner.
“You’re a loser, you’re going to rot in hell,” Richards said in the voicemail played for the jury. “Death is coming to you real soon, motherfucker. You are going to die.”
Jones’ attorney, Andino Reynal, said in his questioning of Heslin that the Sandy Hook lie did not originate with Jones. Heslin said that even if it were true, it was Jones’ massive platform that allowed the lies to proliferate.
“Alex is the one who lit the match and started the fire,” Heslin told the court. “Others were bringing him wood to keep it going. That’s because Alex has such a large platform.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking $150 million in damages.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said testimony given by the parents happened Friday. The testimony took place Tuesday.