When Alex Jones’s lawyer Andino Reynal announced yesterday that his client would be taking the stand in the first Sandy Hook defamation trial, it was clear that all hell was going to break loose. So it wasn’t exactly surprising that yesterday’s hearing ended with the court accusing the defendant of lying on the stand with the tacit cooperation of his counsel.
“You believe everything you say is true. But it isn’t,” she said, palpably furious.
The day began outside the presence of the jury with video of Jones, on his own show, describing plaintiff Neil Heslin as “slow” and “on the spectrum,” speculating that he was “being manipulated by some very bad people.”
Yesterday Heslin offered gut wrenching testimony about the loss of his 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis in the 2012 mass shooting of 26 people, only to face years of harassment by Jones’s deranged fans after the sentient shitposter called him a “crisis actor.” The broadcast was Jones’s response.
After failing to keep the video from the jury on grounds that it had been taken out of context, Reynal returned after lunch with a longer version of the tape including a so-called apology. Unfortunately it also included some unsavory comments about the judge and opposing counsel, but Reynal valiantly offered to edit out that particular bit of context for the court.
Judge Gamble replied that she’d resisted factchecking the multiple reports of Jones publicly discussing the case and criticizing her, but if the counsel wished to put the defendant’s intemperate rants on the record, she’d watch the whole video. And unbelievably, he did.
Jesse’s mother Scarlett Lewis was the first witness of the day, testifying about her grief and inability to get closure because of Jones’s relentless attacks, not just on her loss, but on the idea of truth itself.
“Sandy Hook is a hard truth,” she said, addressing Jones directly.
“Jesse was real. I am real. I know you know that,” she went on, describing the hero’s funeral for her child, who shouted “Run!” while the shooter was reloading, saving several of his classmates who escaped.
“I know you believe me, but you’re going to leave this courthouse and say it again on your show,” she said, responding to the video of Jones’s broadcast.
“I feel like we’re at odds with our missions,” she said to Jones, describing the Choose Love foundation she established to honor her son’s memory by teaching social-emotional intelligence to students. “I’m trying to keep kids safe because I couldn’t do it for my own.”
It was devastating testimony, and for a moment when Jones took the witness stand, he seemed chastened, or at least aware that contrition would be the appropriate human response. But within less than two minutes he was whining that the judge was cutting off his screed against “high powered lawyers and the corporate media.”
“So she got to monologue about me. Got it.” he huffed.
Jones then rambled for several minutes on the evils of the mainstream news outlets — “We get stuff wrong, but I’m not lying like the corporate media, so that’s the difference.” — various “synthetic” news events that were staged by the government, a plot to depopulate the planet, and his own eternal victimhood. Whether it’s corporations yanking their ads to punish him for his “anti-war” stance, or his own frequently alluded to health problems, Jones is truly among the downtrodden of the earth, at least in his own telling.
But then Jones and his lawyer made two serious errors in rapid succession.
“How much email does Infowars routinely get,” Reynal asked his client.
“I know that [when] we looked, to comply with the discovery, which we complied with, it was over ten million in the inbox that we had which was unopened,” Jones answered. “That’s why there was a lot of stuff that we never saw, ’cause it was in the ten million emails.”
“And about how many emails would you say that get on a given day,” Reynal queried.
“I can’t answer that,” Jones said, insisting that he hadn’t had an email in ten years because it would be impossible to process the 20,000 emails he’d get daily.
“How many employees would Infowars have to have, in your view, if you were to read every message, every email, every tip that’s sent in?” Reynal asked.
“It would take ten, fifteen, twenty people. We’d go bankrupt. Which we are now,” Jones answered.
Within seconds, the plaintiffs’ attorney was on his feet demanding to make an immediate motion outside the presence of the jury.
“Mr. Jones just testified straight into the record that he is bankrupt. Which is not true, which is a sham that is going on right now. He pulled $60 million out of his company last year,” the attorney said, barely able to contain his rage.
Bankston accused Jones and lawyer of violating multiple court orders on discovery “to intentionally poison the compensatory damages verdict” by alluding to his non-existent bankruptcy. In point of fact, Jones’s company Free Speech Systems has filed for bankruptcy claiming a $60 million debt to a supplement company which is wholly owned by Jones and his parents. (What a coincidence!) But Jones himself has never filed for bankruptcy at all, sham or otherwise.
And more to the point, Jones’s outrageous refusal to cooperate with discovery netted him default judgments in two states. So when he said “we complied with it,” he was not only lying, but he was violating the court’s order not to imply otherwise to the jury.
Worse still, as Bankston pointed out, one of the reasons Jones got “death penalty sanctions,” is that his team got caught trying to hide the fact that he did indeed have an email. So when he testified otherwise, that was … oh, what is the word, it starts with a “P.”
“Mr. Reynal drew that right out of him, totally expecting that to happen, it was very obvious from the questions he asked,” Bankston insisted, demanding curative jury instructions and sanctions on both Reynal and Jones.
In response, Reynal offered little more than a shrug.
“I’m sorry that that came out,” he said. “I don’t think there was anything I could have done in my questioning that would have prevented it from happening.”
This was … unwise.
After reminding Reynal that it was his responsibility to apprise the witness of topics excluded by the motions in limine, Judge Gamble lit into Jones himself.
“Mr. Jones, you may not say to this jury that you complied with discovery. That is not true, you may not say it again. You may not tell this jury that you are bankrupt. That is also not true,” she said.
“It seems absurd to instruct you again that you must tell the truth while you testify. Yet here I am: You must tell the truth while you testify,” the judge went on. “This is not your show.”
“I believe what I said was true,” Jones protested.
“You believe everything you say is true. But it isn’t. Your beliefs do not make something true,” Judge Gamble cut him off, adding “Your belief that something is true does not make it true. It does not protect you. It is not allowed. You are under oath. That means things must actually be true when you say them.”
The day ended with a strong admonition for Jones to quit “abusing the court’s tolerance” when he returns to the witness stand today and a promise to review any sanctions motion against Jones and Reynal as soon as the jury begins deliberating.
And Lemon, it’s only Wednesday!
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.