° СConspiracy theorist Alex Jones was already in a mountain of legal trouble after being found liable in Connecticut and Texas last fall for defaming families of victims killed in 2012. Mass shooting at Sandy Hook— which Jones had repeatedly called a hoax on his far-right platform InfoWars.
But those problems grew Wednesday after a bombshell accusation by the attorney for the victims’ families suggested Jones may have lied on the stand. (Jones denied lying.)
Jones repeatedly said InfoWars that he believed in the Sandy Hook massacre that left 20 elementary school children and six adults dead in the deadliest school shooting in history– it was a scam. He and his media company, Free Speech Systems, are now embroiled in a series of defamation lawsuits from victims’ families, who claim Jones’ statements led to death threats and intense harassment.
The current lawsuit was filed by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose six-year-old son Jesse Lewis died in the Sandy Hook attack. Jones has now been found liable and a jury will now determine how much he must pay the family in damages. The families are seeking $150 million from Jones and his media company, which has filed for bankruptcy.
During the court proceedings, Jones’ brand of misinformation that had thrived on the Internet fell apart. On Wednesday, Jones said he now believed the Sandy Hook attack was “100 percent real” and it was irresponsible to say otherwise. (Jones’ attorney and the families’ attorney did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.) The statement came after Lewis and Heslin’s harrowing testimony Tuesday, when they described how Jones has negatively impacted their lives. Heslin told the jury that he could not “even begin to describe the last nine and a half years of hell” they had endured as they repeatedly encountered people who believed in the Jones conspiracy theory that the Sandy Hook massacre was fake. “My life is in danger,” Heslin said. “I fear for my life. I fear for my safety and the safety of my family and their lives.”
Jones previously testified that he complied with the discovery process and sought any messages on his phone that he could provide that discussed Sandy Hook, but found nothing.
On Wednesday, Mark Bankston, the families’ attorney, disagreed and produced receipts. “Do you know that 12 days ago your lawyers messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you’ve sent in the last two years?” Bankston said. “That’s how I know you lied to me when you said you didn’t have text messages about Sandy Hook.”
“No, I didn’t know that happened, but I told you I gave the phone away,” Jones replied, clearly shocked. “This is your Perry Mason moment.”
“On Discovery you were asked if you had Sandy Hook text messages on your phone and you said ‘No.’ Right?” Bankston asked. “If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. You have the text messages right there,” Jones replied.
“You know what perjury is, don’t you?” Bankston asked. “Yes,” Jones said. “I’m not a tech guy. I told you in my deposition that I gave my phone to the lawyers.
It remains unclear how the revelation will affect Jones’ compensation process or whether he could face new lawsuits or potential criminal liability.
More must-see stories from TIME