Former UConn student testifies in Alex Jones trial 

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A Sandy Hook victim’s sister took the stand during the ongoing Alex Jones trial and was confronted by denial of the mass shooting in class on the Waterbury campus. 

Jillian Soto is the sister of the teacher Victoria Soto who was murdered in the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, CT in 2012. On Sept. 22, Alex Jones testified in court and admitted that he had said Sandy Hook was fake, synthetic, manufactured with actors and that it was a total hoax. 

Trials are happening in Waterbury Superior Court right now and last week Soto testified from the witness stand to describe the impact that people like Jones have had on her life.   

“When I was at UConn Waterbury, the Human Development and Family Studies program was a fairly small group of people, and it was a night class and we were all asked to introduce ourselves,” Soto said. “It was the first day of classes. And when I stood up and went to introduce myself I said ‘Hi my name is Jillian Soto,’ a student in the classroom asked me ‘Are you related to Victoria Soto?’” 

Soto said she then told the student they were correct. Following this response, she said the classmate told her that the Sandy Hook shooting never actually happened, that her sister never existed and that the whole event was a hoax. 

Immediately following this abrasive interaction with a classmate, Soto said she promptly left the class without taking any of her belongings.  

“I just left and went straight to my car. A friend of mine who was in the class was able to grab my stuff, and I dropped that class the next day,” Soto said.  

“Incidents like this happen to the family all the time,” the Soto family’s media director Ryan Graney said.  

“The amount of hate that they get is insane,” Graney said in an interview over the phone.  

Graney said she generally handles the online hate comments that the family gets as well as the family’s accounts on social media.  

Graney went on to describe how the family was getting unprecedented amounts of online hate on top of having interactions like the one Jillian Soto described happening at UConn.  

“They were pretty susceptible to online attacks because they were just normal people, living in Connecticut and all of a sudden everyone in the world knew their name and the terrible people took advantage of that,” Graney said. 

Graney additionally talked about how the trials have affected the amount of harassment and hate that the family is getting. She said that the YouTube channel that is livestreaming the trials had to turn the comments off because of people commenting hateful things.  

“Especially a video of Carlee’s testimony, people were calling her a hoaxer underneath it and saying that she wasn’t really crying. So given the most recent media coverage, the harassment has stepped up a bit,” Graney said. 

Jillian and Carlee Soto are not the only members of the Soto family who shared personal stories from the witness stand, their brother Matthew Soto also described multiple incidents he has had in school settings. Similar to Jillian, Matthew went to college in Connecticut at Southern Connecticut State University and he talked about an incident he had in class. 

He recalled he was in a history class his sophomore year of college and the professor had been going over what the class would be covering and arrived at the topic of media and current events. He continued and said the professor then asked the question, “How many of you think Sandy Hook actually happened?” 

Soto then described how he noticed that not everybody had raised their hands, which he said immediately caused him to have a panic attack. 

“I knew I was sitting in a room with people that thought that I wasn’t real, that my sister wasn’t real, and I got up and I left and I dropped out of that class, and it was a very hard thing for me to go back to school even that week,” Soto said. 

In the almost ten years since the devastating Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Soto family has faced incredible amounts of online hate as well as in-person harassment. Jillian Soto’s recount of what happened to her on one of UConn’s campuses is just one of the many examples of this. 

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