AUSTIN, Texas — In a brutal cross-examination on Wednesday within the trial of the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a lawyer for Sandy Hook parents produced text messages from Mr. Jones’s cellphone showing that he had withheld key evidence in defamation lawsuits brought by the families for lies he had spread in regards to the 2012 school shooting.
The messages were apparently sent in error to the families’ lawyers by Mr. Jones’s legal team.
“Mr. Jones, did you recognize that 12 days ago, your attorneys tousled and sent me a complete digital copy of your entire cellphone with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years?” the parents’ lawyer, Mark Bankston, asked Mr. Jones.
The text messages were significant because Mr. Jones had claimed for years that he had searched his phone for texts in regards to the Sandy Hook cases and located none.
“You understand what perjury is, right?” Mr. Bankston asked Mr. Jones, who indicated that he did.
The disclosure of the texts provided a striking capstone to the ultimate day of testimony in a trial to find out how much Mr. Jones must pay the parents of a toddler who died within the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., for broadcasting conspiracy theories that the shooting was a hoax and that the families were “actors.” The jury began deliberating late Wednesday.
The texts also revealed that Mr. Jones was warned about posting a false report in regards to the coronavirus by a staff member calling the report “one other Sandy Hook” for spreading disinformation about an event.
He acknowledged the staff member’s concerns, but Mr. Bankston said the false report remained survive his Infowars website on Wednesday.
Mr. Jones can also be under scrutiny for his role in planning events across the attack on the Capitol, so the texts might be of interest to the House Jan. 6 committee.
“We fully intend on cooperating with law-enforcement and U.S. government officials interested by seeing these materials,” Mr. Bankston said.
The file with Mr. Jones’s texts is a component of a raft of fabric related to the Sandy Hook cases mistakenly delivered to the families’ lawyers. Mr. Bankston estimated that the files relayed to him in apparent error by Mr. Jones’s lawyers contained several hundred gigabytes of fabric.
Mr. Bankston, who’s representing the Sandy Hook parents Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin on the trial, also revealed latest evidence of Mr. Jones’s failure to provide court-ordered documents related to lies he spread in regards to the mass shooting and its victims. Visibly uncomfortable for many of the 40-minute cross-examination, sweat running into his eyes and down his neck, Mr. Jones said he “100%” believed that the shooting occurred.
Mr. Bankston also presented financial records that contradicted Mr. Jones’s claim under oath on Tuesday that he was bankrupt, and clips from his broadcasts maligning the judge and jury within the case.
Mr. Jones lost 4 defamation cases last 12 months that were filed against him by the families of 10 victims of the shooting, which killed 20 first graders and 6 educators.
Mr. Jones lost those cases by default, after nearly 4 years of litigation wherein he failed to provide documents and testimony ordered by courts in Texas and Connecticut. That set in motion three trials for damages; the one in Austin this week is the primary.
In testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, Mr. Jones continued to insist that he had complied with court orders to provide documents and testimony within the run-up to the defamation trials. In actual fact, his losses by default resulted from his failure to provide those materials.
He also repeatedly tried to assert that his right to free speech protected him. But by defaulting within the defamation cases because he did not comply with discovery by withholding documents and testimony, he lost the chance to check that claim at trial. The present trial and the 2 upcoming trials are only to come to a decision the quantity he must pay the families in damages.
The judge admonished Mr. Jones and his lawyer, F. Andino Reynal, after the Infowars fabulist lied in regards to the matter under oath on Tuesday. The judge also chastised Mr. Jones for telling the jury that he was bankrupt when his bankruptcy filing last week has yet to be adjudicated; the families’ lawyers say it’s his latest try to delay the upcoming damages trials. A federal bankruptcy court in Texas ruled that the present trial could proceed, however the others are delayed for now.
In court on Wednesday, Mr. Bankston produced financial records indicating that Mr. Jones was earning revenue of as much as $800,000 per day lately by selling weight-reduction plan supplements, gun paraphernalia and survivalist gear in ads accompanying his broadcasts. Mr. Jones tried to accuse the families’ lawyers of cherry-picking probably the most lucrative each day revenues, but he was silenced by the judge.
Mr. Bankston also produced clips from Mr. Jones’s Infowars broadcast wherein he aired a replica of a photograph of the judge in Ms. Lewis’s and Mr. Heslin’s case, Maya Guerra Gamble, engulfed in flames.
“That’s justice burning,” a cowed Mr. Jones told Mr. Bankston.
In one other broadcast, Infowars falsely linked the judge to pedophilia and human trafficking; in one other, Mr. Jones questioned the intelligence of the jurors within the case, implying that his political enemies had handpicked “blue-collar” individuals who “don’t know what planet they’re on,” and were ill-equipped to come to a decision what monetary damages he must pay Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin. In written questions submitted to Mr. Jones, jurors took immediate issue with that characterization.
“Are you aware that this jury consists of 16 intelligent, fair-minded residents who will not be being improperly influenced in any way?” one wrote to Mr. Jones.
“I don’t think that you just are operatives,” Mr. Jones replied.
Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin are requesting $150 million in damages from Mr. Jones. But greater than money, they’ve said the case represents a chance to alert Americans to the societal harms posed by the viral spread of disinformation over the last decade since Sandy Hook.
In closing remarks on Wednesday, Mr. Jones’s lawyer said he was prepared to pay a single dollar to Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin for every of the eight defamation claims.