Typically bombastic Alex Jones makes for complicated court

  • 5 min read
  • Aug 05, 2022

Typically bombastic Alex Jones makes for complicated court

Alex Jones speaks to the media during a lunch break during court at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, July 26, 2022.  A lawyer for the parents of one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting said Jones repeatedly

Alex Jones speaks to the media during a lunch break during court at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas, Tuesday, July 26, 2022. A lawyer for the parents of one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting said Jones repeatedly “lied and attacked the parents of the children killed” when he told his Infowars audience that the 2012 attack was a hoax. In his opening statement to determine damages against Jones, attorney Mark Bankston said Jones had created a “massive campaign of lies” and “wild extremism from the fringes of the Internet … as cruel as Mr. Jones wanted to be.” were” was recruited. Jones later criticized the case, calling it a “show trial” and an attack on the First Amendment.

AP

Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones made the first trial against him that could destroy his personal fortune and media empire in his usual way: loud, aggressive and talking about conspiracies in and out of court.

It works for Jones with his gravelly, barrel-chested voice as usual. But by court standards, his erratic and sometimes disrespectful behavior is unusual — and potentially complicated for the legal process.

Jones and his media company, Free Speech Systems, were ordered Thursday to pay $4.11 million in restitution to the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was killed along with 19 first-graders and six other teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. And there could be significantly more to come.

Although the more than $4 million was significantly less than the $150 million in damages that Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis are seeking, the jury reconvened Friday to hear about Jones’ finances before deciding on punitive damages.

Jones faces two more Sandy Hook damages trials later this year: one for the parents of a 6-year-old boy in an Austin court and another for eight families in Connecticut.

Jones’s false claims that the shooting was a hoax or staged turned the past decade into a “living hell” of death threats, online abuse and relentless harassment of Jones and his followers, Hesslin and Lewis testified.

After years of false claims, Jones admitted under oath that the shooting was “100% real” and even shook hands with their parents.

But Jones’ exciting version always lurked just below the surface, or even off the court entirely.

During a recess on the first day, he held an impromptu news conference just steps from the courthouse doors, calling the proceedings a “kangaroo court” and a “show trial” of his fight for free speech under the First Amendment. On the first day, he arrived at court with “Save First” written on his mouth in silver tape.

When he came to the court, he always had three or four guards. Jones, who was not in court for the sentencing, often skipped testifying to appear on his daily show Infowars, where the attacks on the judge and jury continued. In one episode, Jones said jurors were drawn from a group of people who “don’t know what planet they live on.”

That clip was shown to the jury. Likewise, a snapshot from his Infowars website shows Judge Maya Guerra Gamble engulfed in flames. He laughed at that.

Jones was only slightly less combative in court. He was the only witness to testify in his own defense, and Gamble knew he had the potential to go off the rails. He even warned Jones’ lawyers before the start that if he tried to turn it into a performance, he would clear the courtroom and shut down the live broadcast of the trial to the world.

When Jones came to testify for Lewis, Gamble asked him if he chewed gum, a violation of a strict rule in his court. He had already blamed his lawyer Andino Rinal several times.

That led to a tentative exchange. Jones said he doesn’t chew gum. Gamble said he could see her mouth moving. Jones opened up and bent over the defense table to reveal a gap in his mouth where he had a tooth. Jones insisted that he only massaged the hole with his tongue.

The judge said: Don’t show me.

Some legal experts said they were surprised by Jones’ behavior and questioned whether it was a calculated risk to increase his appeal to fans.

“This is the strangest behavior I’ve ever seen in a courtroom,” said Barry Covert, a constitutional reform attorney in Buffalo, New York. “To me, Jones is a money maker — crazy as a fox,” Covert says. “The bigger the show, the better.”

Kevin Goldberg, a First Amendment expert at the Maryland-based Liberty Association, said it’s hard to imagine what Jones might be thinking and what benefit he could get out of his behavior.

“I don’t know what it’s designed to do other than brand Alex Jones,” Goldberg said. “This appears to be a man who has built his brand on disrespecting government institutions … and this court.”

Defendants at trial are often given leeway because they face so much risk — jail time in criminal cases and, in Jones’ civil case, potential financial ruin. Monetary sanctions or even defamation charges are possible after a trial.

Covert said Gamble had to be careful how he handled things.

“Jones’ strange behavior puts the judge in a very difficult box,” Covert said. “He doesn’t want to appear to put his finger on the scale of justice.”

Jones waived Heslin’s testimony when she explained to the jury that she was holding her dead son with a “bullet hole in his head.”

Hesslin said he wanted to confront Jones face-to-face and called his absence that day “cowardly.” Jones appeared on his daytime show instead.

Jones was in the room when Lewis stood on the stand, sitting 10 feet away, looking directly at him.

“My son existed. “I’m not the ‘deep state,'” he said of the conspiracy theory of a network of federal workers running the government.

“I know you know that,” Lois said.

When Lewis asked Jones if he thought he was an actor, Jones replied “No”, but Gamble chided him for speaking out of turn.

At the end of the day, Jones and the parents shook hands. Lewis even gave him a sip of water to help calm a cough Jones said was caused by a torn larynx. His lawyer, Wesley Ball, quickly stepped in to destroy it.

“No, you don’t,” Ball told Jones.

Jones was the only witness to defend him. His testimony challenged the court’s rules so much that plaintiffs openly questioned whether Jones and his lawyers were trying to sabotage the trial and force a mistrial. They filed a motion for sanctions against them after Jones claimed bankruptcy, which attorneys opposed and was barred from testifying.

Jones appeared stunned when the family’s attorneys announced that Jones’ legal team had mistakenly sent them two years of data from his cell phone. They said it proved he received messages and emails about Sandy Hook and his media company’s finances that he did not turn over as ordered by the court.

“This is your Perry Mason moment,” Jones said.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Mark Bankston, said Thursday that the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol has requested the material and he plans to give it to them.

The Jan. 6 committee first subpoenaed Jones in November, demanding documents related to his efforts to spread misinformation about the 2020 election and the rally on the day of the attack.

During the trial, Jones often spoke out of turn, breaking out when he leaned into conspiracies ranging from the 9/11 terrorist attacks to bogus United Nations efforts to reduce the world’s population. He went on to question some of the biggest events and government institutions in American life.

“This is not your show,” the judge told him.

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Tarm reported from Chicago.

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For more AP news coverage of school shootings: https://apnews.com/hub/school-shootings

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