AUSTIN, Texas — In a brutal cross-examination Wednesday in the trial of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a lawyer for Sandy Hook’s parents produced text messages from Mr. Jones’ cellphone that showed he had withheld key facts in defamation lawsuits that families had filed for lies he had 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 messed around and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you’ve sent in the last two years?” The parents’ lawyer, Mark Bankston, asked Mr Jones.
The text messages were significant because Mr. Jones had maintained for years that he searched his phone for messages about the Sandy Hook cases and found none.
“You know what perjury is, right?” Mr Bankston asked Mr Jones, who indicated that he did.
The revelation of the texts provided a dramatic milestone on the final day of testimony in a trial 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, Conn., for spreading theories. conspiracy that the shooting was a hoax and that the families were “actors”. The jury began deliberations late Wednesday.
The texts also revealed that Mr Jones was warned about publishing a false report about the coronavirus by a staff member who called the report “another Sandy Hook” for spreading misinformation about an event.
He acknowledged the staff member’s concerns, but Mr Bankston said the false report remained live on the Infowars website on Wednesday.
Mr. Jones is also being scrutinized for his role in planning the events surrounding the Capitol attack, so the texts could be of interest to the January 6 House committee.
“We fully intend to cooperate with law enforcement and US government officials who are interested in viewing these materials,” Mr. Bankston said.
The file containing Mr. Jones’s texts is part of a series of material related to the Sandy Hook cases that was mistakenly handed over to the families’ lawyers. Mr Bankston estimated that the files apparently mistakenly passed on to him by Mr Jones’ lawyers contained several hundred gigabytes of material.
Mr Bankston, who is representing Sandy Hook parents Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin in the trial, also revealed new evidence of Mr Jones’ failure to produce court documents relating to lies he spread about the mass killing and its victims . Mr Jones, visibly uncomfortable for most of the 40-minute cross-examination, with sweat in his eyes and throat, said he “100 per cent” believed the shooting happened.
Mr. Bankston also produced financial records that contradicted Mr. Jones’s assertion in a sworn affidavit Tuesday that he was bankrupt, as well as excerpts from his broadcasts impugning the judge and jury in the case.
Mr. Jones lost four defamation lawsuits last year brought against him by the families of 10 victims of the shooting, which killed 20 first-graders and six teachers.
Mr. Jones lost those cases by default after nearly four years of litigation in which he failed to produce documents and testimony ordered by courts in Texas and Connecticut. This triggered three lawsuits for damages. the one in Austin this week is the first.
In testimony Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, Mr. Jones continued to insist that he had complied with court orders to produce documents and testimony ahead of the libel trials. In fact, his losses came from his inability to produce these materials.
He also tried repeatedly to claim that his right to free speech protected him. But because he defaulted on the defamation claims by failing 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 upcoming trials are only to decide how much he has to pay the families in compensation.
The judge admonished Mr. Jones and his lawyer, F. Antino Reynal, after the Infowars storyteller lied about the matter under oath on Tuesday. The judge also criticized Mr Jones for telling jurors he was bankrupt when his bankruptcy filing last week has yet to be issued. Lawyers for the families say it is his last-ditch effort to delay upcoming compensation trials. A federal bankruptcy court in Texas ruled that the current trial could continue, but the others are on hold for now.
In court on Wednesday, Mr. Bankston presented financial records showing that Mr. Jones was earning up to $800,000 a day in recent years selling nutritional supplements, gun paraphernalia and survival equipment in the commercials that accompanied his shows. Mr Jones tried to accuse the families’ lawyers of collecting the more lucrative daily income, but the judge was silent.
Mr. Bankston also produced clips from Mr. Jones’ Infowars show, in which he aired a copy of a photo of the judge in Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin’s case, Maya Guerra Gamble, engulfed in flames.
“This is justice burning,” a ragged 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 jury in the case, suggesting that his political enemies had chosen “blue-collar” people who “don’t know what planet they’re on” and were incapable of deciding what monetary damages he should pay. to Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin. In written questions put to Mr. Jones, jurors immediately disputed that characterization.
“Do you know that this jury is made up of 16 intelligent, fair-minded citizens who are not improperly influenced in any way?” one wrote to Mr. Jones.
“I don’t think you’re manipulators,” 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 represents an opportunity to warn Americans about the social damage caused by the viral spread of misinformation in the decade since Sandy Hook.
In closing arguments Wednesday, Mr. Jones’ lawyer said he was prepared to pay Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin a single dollar for each of the eight defamation claims.