WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Infowars’ revenues and website viewership spiked around the time of one of Alex Jones’ shows in 2014 when he talked about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting being a hoax, according to documents shown to a jury Thursday.
Jones and his Free Speech Systems company are on trial in Connecticut in a lawsuit brought by Sandy Hook families over his spreading the hoax lies. Jones has already been found liable for damages to the families, and the six-member jury will be deciding how much he and his company should pay the families.
The shooting in December 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut, killed 20 first- graders and six educators.
Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the families, showed an internal Infowars documents detailing the revenue and website-visit spikes around the time of an article on Sept. 24, 2014, on the Infowars website that said no one died at Sandy Hook. The next day, Jones talked about the article on his show.
Revenues to the Infowars online store, which sells nutritional supplements, clothing and other items, increased from $48,000 on Sept. 24 to more than $230,000 on Sept. 25, according to the documents. Total user sessions on the Infowars website, meanwhile, increased from about 543,000 on Sept. 23 to about 1 million on Sept. 24, the documents showed.
The data was part of the families’ case claiming Jones spread lies about the shooting and profited from them, while causing emotional distress to the families. An FBI agent who responded to the school shooting and relatives of eight children and adults killed in the massacre are part of the lawsuit against Jones.
Last month, a jury in Texas awarded the parents of another slain Sandy Hook child nearly $50 million in a similar lawsuit against Jones and his company.
Mattei on Thursday questioned Brittany Paz, a Connecticut lawyer hired by Jones to testify about his companies, about the financial and website analytics documents. He also asked her about company emails and videos from Infowars that show Jones and a guest claiming the massacre was staged.
“He said, ‘Folks, they staged Aurora, they staged Sandy Hook, the evidence is overwhelming.’ Do you remember that?” Mattei said, quoting Jones.
“I do remember that, yes,” Paz replied.
On Wednesday, Paz acknowledged that Jones’ show, website and social media platforms spread falsehoods about the school shooting.
Paz also said Jones did not check the qualifications of a guest on his show in 2014 —- a conspiracy theorist who claimed to be a school security expert who had investigating the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado — as Jones boasted of his credentials.
Website traffic data reports run by Infowars employees and presented at the trial also show Jones’ audience ballooned in the years after the shooting. By 2016, his show aired on 150 affiliate radio stations, and the Infowars website got 40 million page views a month.
Paz testified that she believes Jones and his companies have made at least $100 million in the decade since the massacre and Jones is now worth millions of dollars. But she could not answer several questions about Jones’ businesses by Mattei, saying she had not received some documents from the companies and could not recall other information.
Mattei showed Paz internal Infowars emails between employees sharing Google Analytics data. Paz testified Wednesday that she was told by Infowars employees that they didn’t use Google Analytics regularly to track website viewing data. After showing her the emails, Mattei asked if it was still her testimony that Infowars didn’t regularly use Google Analytics.
“I don’t know at this point,” she said.
The families’ lawsuit claims that Jones trafficked in lies to increase his audience and sales of the nutritional supplements, clothing and other merchandise he sells on the Infowars website and hawks on his web show. He and guests on his show said the shooting was staged with crisis actors as part of gun control efforts.
Jones, however, now says he believes the shooting happened, but he insists his comments were protected by free speech rights, which he cannot argue at trial because he has already been found liable for damages.
“We knew they were using Sandy Hook to get the Second, but now they’re using it to kill the First,” he said on his Infowars web show Wednesday.
Judges in the Connecticut and Texas cases found Jones liable without trials, as penalties for what they called his repeated failures to turn over documents to the families’ lawyers.
The families say the emotional and psychological harm was profound and persistent. Relatives say they were subjected to social media harassment, death threats, strangers videotaping them and their children, and the surreal pain of being told that they were faking their loss.
Jones’ lawyer, Norman Pattis, said in his opening statement Tuesday that any damages should be minimal and claimed the families were exaggerating the harm they say they have suffered.
“At what point do we regard him as a crank on the village green, a person we can walk away from if we choose?” Pattis asked.
Find AP’s full coverage of the Alex Jones trial at: https://apnews.com/hub/alex-jones