Aldenberg described how almost immediately he was assigned to a team within the FBI to help surviving families deal with harassment, which began even before the funerals of the victims had happened. He also noted that his first assignment after the shooting itself was providing security at a church service for one of the victims.
Aldenberg went on to describe years of calls to his office at the FBI, his attempts to get help from his employers, and his fears for the safety of his family. “I’m not worried about myself,” he said more than once, reiterating his fears on behalf of his loved ones and the survivors.
On the morning of the shooting, Aldenberg testified, he was switching vests and had not finished doing so when the call came in. So he left for the school wearing his old vest, which did not have an FBI-identifying patch on its chest. Photographs that circulated widely in the media following the shooting showing Aldenberg and other agents as they walked, armed, into the school were the genesis of one particular conspiracy theory: that he and one of the victims’ fathers were the same person, and that he, Aldenberg, was not really an FBI agent. At one point, he claimed to bear some responsibility and guilt for the fact that, because he didn’t move fast enough that morning, the victim’s father had endured further abuse.
The second person to testify was Carlee Soto Parisi, the surviving younger sister of 27-year-old teacher Vicki Soto, who died in her classroom while trying to hide her students. Like Aldenberg, Soto Parisi described her experiences in the days, weeks, months, and years following the shooting. She described rushing to the school with her mother to try to locate her sister after hearing that there had been a shooting. Soto Parisi fought back tears as she identified her sister in a family photo. And she also described the experience of encountering strangers and even a former classmate wondering if the shooting was fabricated, suggesting for the plaintiffs how widely Jones’s theories had spread. Soto Parisi also said that, at times over the years, she has denied being related to her sister when asked in order to avoid potential confrontations.
As Soto Parisi ended her testimony on the first day of this trial what emerged as a theme was the extent to which each of the witnesses had endured not only their own tragedy but also the trauma, the plaintiffs’ attorney argued, wrought by Jones’s fabrications about their losses. And subsequently it also seemed obvious that taking the stand to recount these life-changing, tragic events and devastating losses were retraumatizing.
Near the end of Aldenberg’s testimony, Mattei, the plaintiffs’ attorney, asked him to specify when he and the victims had stopped receiving threats and harassment. “It continued,” he said forcefully, seeming exasperated. “It’s gonna continue after today.” Jones’s attorney objected to the comment on the grounds that it was “speculative”; Aldenberg said, “It’s not speculative.” The judge sustained it.