A lawyer representing the families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting told a Connecticut jury on Tuesday that radio show host Alex Jones will continue to profit off his claims the incident was a hoax unless he pays for spreading the lies.
The trial is being held in Waterbury, about 30 kilometres from Newtown, where 26 children and teachers were shot to death in 2012.
Jurors must decide how much in damages — if any — Jones has to pay to 14 family members of victims for claiming the 2012 mass shooting was staged.
More than a dozen family members, including parents of some of the victims, filed into the court on Tuesday morning to listen to the opening statements.
Christopher Mattei, a lawyer representing the victims' families, told jurors it was important to stop Jones from “preying on people who are helpless”.
He said Jones's Infowars brand made as much as $800,000 a day by selling supplements, doomsday supplies and other products after receiving millions of followers through peddling the Sandy Hook hoax claims.
A lawyer for Jones told jurors that the families were “exaggerating their harm for political reasons”.
This is the second such trial for Jones, who was ordered by a Texas jury last month to pay about $50 million to the parents of one of the killed children.
Jones did not attend Tuesday's session. He said on his show on Monday that he would travel to Connecticut next week.
Alex Jones says he never meant to hurt Sandy Hook parents with hoax claims — video
Jones sought to portray himself as the victim of unfair trials during his web show on Tuesday.
“How am I handling it? We’re at war. This is total tyranny,” he said.
“I’ll tell you this, we can appeal this for years. We can beat this. We can stay on air through everything they’re doing if we keep fighting and don’t give up. But it takes massive money to fight three lawsuits in Texas and in Connecticut.”
The trial is expected to last about a month and feature evidence from both Jones and the families.
The Sandy Hook families and former FBI agent William Aldenberg say they have been confronted and harassed for years by people who believed Jones’s false claim that the shooting was staged by crisis actors as part of a plot to take away people’s guns.
Some say strangers have videotaped them and their surviving children. They’ve also endured death threats and been subjected to abusive comments on social media. And some families have moved out of Newtown to avoid harassment.
They accuse Jones of causing them emotional and psychological harm.
Jones, whose web show and Infowars brand are based in Austin, Texas, has been banned from YouTube, Facebook and Spotify for violating hate-speech policies.
He now says he believes the shooting was real. At the Texas trial, he gave evidence in which he said that he realises what he said was irresponsible and hurt people’s feelings, and he apologised.
But he continues to insist that his comments were protected as free speech. He views the lawsuits as efforts to silence him and put him out of business.
Jones’s lawyers say he intends to appeal the judgment against him in Texas. He will also face a third trial back in Texas involving the parents of another murdered child.
Agencies contributed to this report