Attorneys for Alex Jones “messed up” and sent to his legal adversaries “every text message” Jones had written in the past two years – contradicting claims Jones had nothing on his phone pertaining to the deadly Sandy Hook school shooting, which he long maintained was a hoax, it was revealed at his defamation trial on Wednesday.
The stunning revelation surfaced during an exchange in an Austin, Texas, courtroom between Jones and Mark Bankston, a lawyer representing the parents of a six-year-old boy killed in the 2012 attack.
Bankston provided to the Infowars host a copy of a text message he received that criticized his platform’s coverage in 2020 of the coronavirus and likened it to his false theory that the Sandy Hook killings were fake. This was deeply unfavorable to Jones because he had provided sworn testimony at a deposition that he had no text messages on his phone that referenced the Sandy Hook massacre.
“You did get my text messages?” Jones asked Bankston, while on the witness stand. Chuckling sarcastically, Jones added: “You said you didn’t. Nice trick.”
Bankston replied: “Do you know where I got this? Your attorneys messed up and sent me a digital copy of your entire cellphone, with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years.”
Bankston said he told Jones’s lawyers about the mistake, but they did not take “any steps” to label the texts as privileged, and thereby keep them out of court.
“That is how I know you lied when you said you didn’t have text messages about Sandy Hook,” said Bankston, whose clients are Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the father and mother of Jesse Lewis, who died in the shooting.
Jones tried to parry by saying he would not have turned his phone over to the attorneys who then inadvertently forwarded the texts to Bankston if he was trying to hide anything.
“If I was mistaken, I was mistaken,” Jones said. “But you’ve got the messages right there.”
Jones mockingly told Bankston he now had his “Perry Mason moment”, referring to the TV attorney who often won cases by getting those he was questioning to confess to wrongdoing on the witness stand.
“You know what perjury is, right?” Bankston said, referring to the crime of lying under oath. “I just want to make sure before we go further.”
Jones said he did but maintained he did not try to hide anything on his phone.
Shortly after the engrossing exchange, Rolling Stone reported that the congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump would subpoena Jones’ texts.
The outlet reported committee members were trying to learn more about any contacts that Jones – the far-right provocateur that he is – may have had with Trump’s team prior to the riots at the Capitol.
That all made an already damaging day for Jones yet worse. Earlier, Jones conceded he now understood it was foolhardy to dismiss the Sandy Hook killings as false.
“It was … especially since I’ve met the parents,” Jones said during a trial that will determine how much money he owes for defaming the family of Jesse Lewis, one of 20 children and six adults killed at his school in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012.
“It’s 100% real.”
Jones was speaking a day after Heslin and Lewis testified about the mental suffering, death threats and harassment they had endured after Jones, a conspiracy theorist, trumpeted on Infowars and his other media platforms.
Lewis’s parents said on Tuesday they would need much more than an apology, demanding Jones pay at least $150m in compensation to be held accountable for his repeated lies downplaying the shooting.
Jones’ side has asked the jury seated in the case to limit his damages to $1, arguing it was unreasonable to expect him to foresee the harassment that the plaintiffs would weather.
Both sides delivered their closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, the seventh day of the trial. Then, about 4.30pm local time, jurors began deliberating a verdict.
They were charged with determining how much – if anything – he would pay in compensation for defaming and inflicting emotional distress on the victims as well as whether he should hand over punitive damages.
Jones – who has portrayed the lawsuit as an attack on his first amendment rights – was the only one testifying in the defense being staged for him and and his media company, Free Speech Systems.
He told his attorney, Andino Reynal, that he now understands it was reckless to broadcast the lie that the Sandy Hook killings didn’t happen and no one died.
But Jones complained that the media won’t “let” him “take it back”.
Last September, the judge presiding over the case admonished Jones in her default judgment over his failure to turn over documents requested by the Sandy Hook families.
A court in Connecticut issued a similar default judgment against Jones for the same reasons in a separate lawsuit brought by other Sandy Hook parents.
Jones, meanwhile, has sought to financially shield Free Speech Systems. The company filed for federal bankruptcy protection last week.
Sandy Hook families have separately sued Jones over his financial claims, arguing that the company is using shell entities in a bid to protect millions owned by Jones and his family.
During the defamation trial, Bankston displayed an email showing Infowars earned $800,000 in a single day in 2018. That would amount to $300m in a year.
Jones said that was the company’s best ever day for sales.
The Associated Press contributed reporting