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A pair of Sandy Hook parents hired private security to protect themselves from Alex Jones supporters, according to testimony in Texas court proceedings to determine damages in a defamation case centered on the radio host's conspiracy theories about the 2012 school shooting.
A forensic psychologist named Roy Lubit testified on Monday that the parents of Jesse Lewis, a 6-year-old child killed during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, felt the need to retain private security for their protection, Law&Crime reports. Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis hired the security after several fans of Jones expressed that they thought their slain son was a child actor
The shooting at the Newtown, Connecticut school left 20 first-graders and six educators dead; the 20-year-old gunman had fatally shot his mother at their Newtown home before the massacre and killed himself at the school as police arrived. Jones has repeatedly called the massacre a hoax, though he has since conceded that the shooting did occur. Last fall, a Texas judge found Jones, 48, liable for damages in three defamation lawsuits brought by the parents of two children killed in the shooting.
The testimony came after a bankruptcy judge in Texas lifted a stay on the damages trial after Free Speech Systems, the company which operates Jones' InfoWars, filed for bankruptcy. Jones’ attorney Andino Reynal alerted the court to the bankruptcy filing last week, Texas outlet KXAN reports. The Austin company had estimated assets of $50,000 or less and estimated liabilities of between $1 million and $10 million.
Lubit testified in the Austin courtroom on Monday that Lewis’ parents would have a hired security detail at all times if they had the funds to do so. He stated that they had obtained security during this very case.
“They are very, very frightened of someone, some follower of Jones, trying to kill them,” Lubit testified, adding that he thinks “there’s a real threat,” Law&Crime reports.
Lubit argued that Jones' conspiracies about their son's death have influenced upwards of 75 million people, and roughly 1 in every 4 Americans.
“Feeling that 75 million — one in four — people anywhere in this country you go, is going to reject you, think poorly of you, despise you, could well hassle you, verbally assault you or physically assault you” has been damaging to their mental health, the psychologist told the courtroom on Monday.
Jones' attorney disputed Lubit's statistics, saying that because his broadcasts were global, the percentage of Americans exposed to them would be less than 1 in 4, according to Law&Crime.
Jones is also facing proceedings to determine damages in Connecticut regarding a separate defamation suit filed by another set of Sandy Hook families. Those are scheduled to take place in September. A follow-up bankruptcy hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 5 regarding a motion to dissolve the automatic stay for the Connecticut proceedings.
Three smaller companies tied to Jones and named in the defamation cases declared bankruptcy earlier this year, delaying proceedings. The families then filed a motion to drop those firms from the lawsuit in order to continue their case against Jones and Free Speech Systems, CNN reports. Not long after those lawsuits, the three companies exited their bankruptcy protection.