WATERBURY, Conn. — The defamation trial for Alex Jones continued into week three Tuesday with testimony from the father and mother of a Sandy Hook shooting victim.
Ian and Nicole Hockley lost 6-year-old Dylan to the shooting that also took 19 more students and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012.
The two each took the stand Tuesday morning to share memories of Dylan and the harassment they experienced after the shooting.
The Hockleys lived in the UK when they had their two sons, Jake and Dylan. The decision to move to the United States was in part due to seeking services more beneficial for Dylan, who was diagnosed with autism at a young age.
“It was just night and day for his care, so I really chose the [Sandy Hook] school for Dylan,” Ian Hockley said.
“That was kind of a golden time,” Nicole Hockley said of being back in the United States between 2011 and the summer of 2012. “I just had so much joy in that period of time, I was just so happy being with my kids, and having just that time with them was very precious.”
Ian Hockley remembered speaking with the principal of Sandy Hook about the special education programs as he was touring area school districts and homes in late 2010 to make the big jump across the pond.
“Dawn just loved all of the kids,” Ian Hockley said of Principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung. “There was very clearly a focus on special education needs.”
Hochsprung died trying to save students by confronting the shooter as he barged into the school.
“Anyone who spent more than five minutes knew that that’s what she was born to do,” Dawn’s daughter Erica Lafferty said during testimony last week. “She loved kids more than life itself.”
Ian and Nicole were among the many family members of Sandy Hook victims who said they were targeted by those who believed the shooting was a hoax.
Pictures of Ian smiling during Dylan’s memorial service were used as social media fodder for the hoax conspiracy. A hoax that haunts Ian to this day.
"I was called out for smiling because I was uplifted and happy by it [stories told at Dylan's memorial service], so I was being attacked for that, how could I be smiling," Ian Hockley said.
Just last year a business card showing Sandy Hook parents smiling and happy was placed on his car during a mundane shopping trip.
“Did you ever find out who put this on your car?” asked Attorney Joshua Koskoff. “No,” replied Ian Hockley.
Nicole Hockley recalled getting threatening direct messages, emails, mail, phone calls, including phone calls to friends looking for her, as well as Facebook messages sent to her as recently as August 2022.
“This would keep me up at night, seeing these things and responding to them,” Nicole Hockley said.
She worked with the FBI to report these threatening messages just months after the shooting. It led to at least one arrest, according to the email evidence presented to the jury.
The harassment continued as Ian Hockley became more in the public eye, launching Dylan's Wings of Change program.
“This is really serious now. This is not something you can brush off, this is really real and really dangerous,” he said.
Nicole told the jury she now worries about the possibility of her older son, Jake, now 18, experiencing harassment as well.
“I am terrified someone will hurt my son," Hockley said of Jake.
The harassment has not stopped either parent from running non-profit organizations, Wings of Change and Sandy Hook Promise, in memory of Dylan and his classmates and educators.
“This wins out, I’m going to share my story about Dylan, so I just have to be careful," Ian Hockley said on weighing the risks of being harassed or attacked for continuing Dylan's Wings of Change campaign. "Knowing who is there, watching the people who come in.”
Jillian Soto-Marino, sister of late educator Vicki Soto, took the stand as well, sharing her perspective of the day of the tragedy.
"Before knowing anything more that there was a shooting at the school I knew my sister would do everything she could to keep her kids safe,” Soto-Marino said.
“She gave her life for her students, that means I didn’t have a sister anymore…” Soto-Marino said through tears. “And if my sister survived, She wouldn’t be the same sister that I knew.”
Soto-Marino recalled a live interview she did with her siblings remembering Vicki and them all smiling when it started to snow, which reminded them of Vicki.
Soto-Marino saw hateful comments about the "split moment" on YouTube.
"Because of a moment that was supposed to be happy where we felt our sister was twisted because people thought Sandy Hook didn’t happen because we were happy for a split second where everything was horrible,” Soto-Marino said.
She also recalled when in 2015 someone confronted her while at the annual Vicki Soto 5K race.
"He asked me to explain this picture [of her and her siblings] and explain why I was pretending my sister existed," Soto-Marino recalled.
"He was eerily calm but aggressive by shoving it in my face. He also had a Team Vicki shirt on so I thought it was someone who supported our foundation," She added.
And in another key court moment, a new piece of evidence was shown, revealing what employees of InfoWars really thought about the Alex Jones Show. It was a clip of the audio deposition of the former producer, Jacob Nico Acosta, explaining why he couldn’t take it anymore.
“Too many things to describe,” said Acosta. “The coverage that they were doing, the lack of ethics in the coverage they were doing, the effect it’s having out in the world.”
Alex Jones is expected to take the stand again next week, rather than in the coming days. He was expected to testify again this week when his attorney was expected to call him to speak, but those plans since changed.
"Mr. Jones will testify [again], and he'll be the last witness and will have the last word," Pattis said outside the courthouse this past Friday.
A day off is expected this Friday, Sept. 30. The trial is currently ahead of schedule and is estimated to wrap up by mid-October.
Jones was already found liable for damages after calling the Sandy Hook shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, a hoax on his InfoWars show.
A separate defamation trial over the summer ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million to the Lewis family, who lost their son Jesse in the shooting.
In this Connecticut case, the families of eight victims and an FBI agent that responded to the shooting filed for damages against Jones, saying his claims saying Sandy Hook was stage had turned them into targets.
Pattis argues that any damages should be limited and accuses the victims' relatives of exaggerating the harm the lies caused them.
A third similar suit, out of Texas, is awaiting trial.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took away the lives of 20 students and six educators.
Leah Myers is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. She can be reached at email@example.com
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