Austin, Texas – Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones testified Wednesday that he now realizes it was irresponsible of him to call the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre a hoax and that he now believes it was “100% real.”

Speaking a day after the parents of a 6-year-old boy who died in a 2012 terror attack testified about the anguish, death threats and harassment they endured because of what Jones trumpeted on his media platforms, the host Infowars told the Texas court that it definitely believes the attack happened.

“Especially because I got to know my parents. It’s 100% real,” Jones said in court to determine how much he and his media company Free Speech Systems owe for defamation of Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis. Their son Jesse Lewis was among 20 students and six teachers killed in the Newtown, Connecticut attack, the deadliest school shooting in American history.

But Heslin and Lewis said Tuesday that an apology would not be enough and that Jones should be held accountable for repeatedly spreading lies about the attack. They are demanding at least $150 million.

Closing arguments are expected to begin later Wednesday after additional testimony from Jones, who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his First Amendment rights.

Jones is the only person testifying in his own defense. His lawyer asked him if he now realized that it was “absolutely irresponsible” to insist on false claims that there was no massacre and that no one had died.

Jones said he was doing it, but added, “They (the media) won’t let me take it away.”

He also complained that he had been “made out to be someone who runs around and talks about Sandy Hook, makes money from Sandy Hook, is obsessed with Sandy Hook.”

Jones’ testimony came a day after Heslin and Lewis told a courtroom in Austin, where Jones and his companies are based, that Jones and the false hoax claims he and Infowars have been pushing have turned their lives into a “veritable living hell” of death threats , online abuse and harassment.

They led a day of depositions Tuesday, during which the judge berated a cocky Jones for not telling the truth about some of what he said under oath.

In a thrilling exchange, Lewis addressed Jones directly, who was sitting about 10 feet away. Earlier in the day, Jones told his audience that Heslin was “slow” and that he was being manipulated by bad people.

“I am first and foremost a mother, and I know you are a father. My son existed,” Lewis told Jones. “I’m not the deep state. . . . I know you know that. . . And yet you’re going to leave this courthouse and say it again on your show.”

Lewis once asked Jones, “Do you think I’m an actor?”

“No, I don’t think you’re an actor,” Jones replied before the judge asked him to remain silent until he was called to testify.

Heslin and Lewis are among several Sandy Hook families who have filed multiple lawsuits alleging that Jones’ claims of a Sandy Hook hoax led to years of abuse by him and his followers.

Heslin and Lewis said they feared for their lives and were confronted by strangers at home and on the street. Heslin said his house and car were fired upon. Jurors heard a death threat sent via phone message to another Sandy Hook family.

“I can’t even begin to describe the last nine and a half years, the hell that I and others have had to go through because of the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones,” Heslin said.

Scarlett Lewis also described threatening emails that appeared to reveal deep details of her personal life.

“It’s fear for your life,” said Scarlett Lewis. “You don’t know what they were going to do.”

Heslin said he didn’t know if the Sandy Hook hoax conspiracy theory came from Jones, but it was Jones who “lighted the match and started the fire” with an online platform and broadcast that reached millions of people around the world.

“What was said about me and about Sandy Hook resonates around the world,” Heslin said. “As time went on, I really realized how dangerous it was.”

Jones skipped Hesslin’s testimony Tuesday morning while he was on his show — a move Hesslin dismissed as “cowardly” — but did arrive in the courtroom for part of Scarlett Lewis’s testimony. He was accompanied by several private guards.

“Today means a lot to me and it’s been a long time coming… to meet Alex Jones for what he said and did to me. To restore my son’s honor and legacy,” Heslin said when Jones was gone.

Heslin told jurors about holding his son with a bullet hole in his head, even describing the extent of the damage to his son’s body. A key segment of the case is a 2017 Infowars broadcast that says Heslin did not hold his son.

Jurors were shown a school photo of a smiling Jesse taken two weeks before he was killed. The parents received the photo only after the shooting. They described how Jesse was known for telling his classmates to “run!” which probably saved a life.

An apology from Jones wouldn’t be enough, the parents said.

“Alex started this fight,” Heslin said, “and I’m going to finish this fight.”

Jones later took the stand and was initially combative with the judge, who asked him to answer a question from his own attorney. Jones testified that he had wanted to apologize to the plaintiffs for a long time.

The judge later ordered the jury out of the room and sharply reprimanded Jones for telling jurors that he had submitted to a pretrial hearing even though he had not and that he was bankrupt, which was not established. Plaintiffs’ attorneys were furious that Jones mentioned he was bankrupt, which they cautioned could taint jurors’ decisions on damages.

“This is not your show,” judge Maya Gera Gamble told Jones. “Your beliefs do not make something true. You are under oath.”

Last September, a judge admonished Jones in her default judgment for failing to turn over documents requested by Sandy Hook’s family. A Connecticut court issued a similar default judgment against Jones on the same grounds in a separate lawsuit brought by other Sandy Hook parents.

At stake in the trial is how much Jones will pay. The parents asked the jury to award $150 million in damages for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A jury will then consider whether Jones and his company will pay punitive damages.

Jones has already tried to financially protect Free Speech Systems. The company filed for federal bankruptcy protection last week. The Sandy Hook families have separately sued Jones over his financial claims, alleging the company is trying to protect millions owed to Jones and his family through shell entities.

Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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