The parents of a six-year-old boy who was shot dead in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones he has made their lives a “living hell” as they faced him in court.
Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis said they have experienced death threats, harassment and ongoing trauma over the last decade because Jones used his media platforms to push claims the 2012 mass shooting was a hoax.
The parents fought back tears as they each appeared on the witness stand on the final day of testimony in the two-week defamation damages trial against Jones and his media company Free Speech Systems.
They are seeking at least $150m (£123m) in damages at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas.
Mr Heslin and Ms Lewis both said they fear for their lives and have been confronted by strangers at home and on the street because of the hoax theory.
Ms Heslin said his home and car have been shot at, and the jury heard a death threat sent via telephone message to another Sandy Hook family.
“I can’t even describe the last nine and a half years, the living hell that I and others have had to endure because of the recklessness and negligence of Alex Jones,” Mr Heslin told the court.
Ms Lewis later spoke directly to Jones, who was sitting about 10 feet away, before the conspiracy theorist appeared on the stand himself.
She told Jones: “I am a mother first and foremost and I know you are a father. My son existed.
“I am not deep state… I know you know that… And yet you’re going to leave this courthouse and say it again on your show.”
At one point she asked Jones: “Do you think I’m an actor?”
“No, I don’t think you’re an actor,” Jones responded before the judge admonished him to be quiet until called to testify.
Ms Lewis continued trying to impress on Jones that the Sandy Hook shooting and trauma inflicted in the decade since her son Jesse Lewis’ death was real.
“It seems so incredible to me that we have to do this – that we have to implore you, to punish you – to get you to stop lying,” Lewis said. “I am so glad this day is here. I’m actually relieved. And grateful… that I got to say all this to you.”
Jones shook his head several times while Ms Lewis was addressing him.
Earlier in the day, Jones skipped Mr Heslin’s testimony to appear on his own Infowars show.
Jones told his audience that Mr Heslin is “slow” and being manipulated by bad people.
Mr Heslin said Jones’ decision not to attend the trial to hear his testimony was “cowardly”.
“Today is very important to me and it’s been a long time coming… to face Alex Jones for what he said and did to me. To restore the honour and legacy of my son,” Mr Heslin said when Jones wasn’t there.
He added that he didn’t know if the Sandy Hook hoax theory originated with Jones, but it was the Infowars founder who “lit the match and started the fire” with an online platform and broadcast that reached millions worldwide.
Jones later appeared on the stand himself, initially being combative with the judge who had asked him to answer his own attorney’s question.
The conspiracy theorist said he had long wanted to apologise to the parents of Jesse.
“I never intentionally tried to hurt you. I never said your name until this came to court,” Jones said. “The internet had questions, I had questions.”
Later, the judge sent the jury out of the room and strongly scolded Jones for telling the jury he complied with pre-trial evidence gathering even though he didn’t, and that he is bankrupt, which has not been determined.
Jones has portrayed the lawsuit against him as an attack on his right to free speech.
The trial is just one of several he faces.
The massacre took place on 14 December 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 people.
Twenty of the victims were children between six and seven years old, and six were adult staff members