AUSTIN, Texas — During brutal cross-examination Wednesday in the trial of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, an attorney for Sandy Hook’s parents produced text messages from Mr. Jones’ cellphone showing he had withheld key evidence in the families’ defamation lawsuits over lies he spread about the 2012 school shooting.
The messages were apparently mistakenly sent to the families’ lawyers by Mr Jones’ legal team.
“Mr. Jones, did you know that 12 days ago your lawyers screwed up and sent me a full digital copy of your cell phone with every text you’ve sent for the last two years?” parents’ lawyer, Mark Bankston, asked Mr Jones.
The text messages were important because Mr Jones had claimed for years that he had searched his phone for texts about the Sandy Hook cases and found none.
“You know what perjury is, don’t you?” Mr. Bankston asked Mr. Jones, who replied in the affirmative.
The disclosure of the texts provided a stark capstone on the final day of testimony in a lawsuit to determine how much Mr. Jones should pay the parents of a child who died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, for the diffusion. conspiracy theories that the shooting was a hoax and that the families were “actors”. The jury began deliberating on Wednesday evening.
The texts also revealed that Mr Jones had been warned about the publication of a false coronavirus report by a staff member calling the report “another Sandy Hook” for spreading misinformation about an event.
He acknowledged the staffer’s concerns, but Mr Bankston said the bogus report remained online on his Infowars website on Wednesday.
Mr. Jones is also under scrutiny for his role in planning events around the Capitol attack, so the texts may be of interest to the House Jan. 6 committee.
“We fully intend to cooperate with law enforcement and US government officials interested in these materials,” Mr. Bankston said.
The folder containing Mr Jones’s texts is one of a series of documents related to the Sandy Hook cases mistakenly delivered to the families’ lawyers. Mr. Bankston estimated that the files given to him in apparent error by Mr. Jones’ lawyers contained several hundred gigabytes of material.
Mr Bankston, who is representing Sandy Hook parents Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin at trial, also revealed new evidence of Mr Jones’ failure to produce court-ordered documents relating to the lies he spread on the mass shooting and its victims. Visibly uncomfortable for most of the 40-minute cross-examination, sweat pouring into his eyes and down his neck, Mr Jones said he believed “100%” that the shooting had taken place. venue.
Mr Bankston also presented financial records that contradict Mr Jones’ sworn assertion on Tuesday that he was bankrupt, and excerpts from his broadcasts slandering the judge and jury in the case.
Mr Jones last year lost four libel suits brought against him by the families of 10 victims of the shooting, which killed 20 first-graders and six educators.
Mr. Jones lost those cases by default, after nearly four years of litigation during which he failed to produce documents and court-ordered testimony in Texas and Connecticut. This triggered three lawsuits for damages; the one in Austin this week is the first.
During his testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, Mr Jones continued to insist that he had complied with court orders to produce documents and testimony ahead of the libel trials. In fact, its default losses resulted from its inability to produce these materials.
He also repeatedly tried to claim that his right to free speech protected him. But by defaulting in defamation cases because he failed to comply with discovery by withholding documents and testimony, he lost the opportunity to test that claim at trial. The current trial and the two trials to come are only intended to decide the amount that he will have to pay to the families in damages.
The judge reprimanded Mr Jones and his lawyer, F. Andino Reynal, after the Infowars fabulist lied about it under oath on Tuesday. The judge also chastised Mr Jones for telling the jury he was bankrupt when his bankruptcy case last week had yet to go to trial; lawyers for the families say this is his latest attempt to delay upcoming damages trials. A federal bankruptcy court in Texas has ruled the current lawsuit can proceed, but the others are being delayed for the time being.
In court on Wednesday, Mr Bankston produced financial records showing Mr Jones had been earning up to $800,000 a day in recent years selling dietary supplements, gun accessories and survival gear in advertisements accompanying its broadcasts. Mr Jones tried to accuse the families’ lawyers of handpicking the most lucrative daily incomes, but was silenced by the judge.
Mr Bankston also produced excerpts from Mr Jones’ Infowars show in which he played a copy of a photograph of the judge in Ms Lewis and Mr Heslin’s case, Maya Guerra Gamble, being engulfed by flames.
“Justice is burning,” an intimidated Mr Jones told Mr Bankston.
In another broadcast, Infowars falsely linked the judge to pedophilia and human trafficking; in another, Mr Jones questioned the intelligence of the jurors in the case, implying that his political enemies had hand-picked “blue-collar workers” who “don’t know what planet they are on” and were ill-equipped to decide what pecuniary damages he should pay Mrs. Lewis and Mr. Heslin. In written questions submitted to Mr. Jones, the jurors immediately challenged this characterization.
“Do you know that this jury is made up of 16 intelligent and impartial citizens who are in no way unduly influenced?” we wrote to Mr. Jones.
“I don’t think you are agents,” replied Mr Jones.
Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin are seeking $150 million in damages from Mr. Jones. But more than money, they said the case represented an opportunity to alert Americans to the societal damage caused by the viral spread of misinformation in the decade since Sandy Hook.
In his closing remarks on Wednesday, Mr. Jones’ attorney said he was prepared to pay Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin a single dollar for each of the eight defamation claims.