AUSTIN (KXAN) — The plaintiff’s attorneys in Alex Jones’ defamation case said they “inadvertently” received text messages and data from the Infowars host’s cell phone, sent by his defense team.
Mark Bankston represents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, who lost their son Jesse in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. The parents are suing over claims by Jones and others at Infowars that the shooting was a hoax.
Judge Maya Guerra Gamble has already found Jones liable for defamation and inflicting mental anguish in the case in a default judgment last year. At the time, she cited his team’s refusal to follow court orders or turn over evidence. A jury has been tasked with deciding how much the host should be ordered to pay the family in damages.
When Jones took the stand Wednesday to testify before the jury, Bankston asked him about text messages he was asked to turn over during discovery before this trial. According to Bankston, certain texts and emails were not provided by Jones’ defense.
Jones said he had never seen the text exchange that was shown on the screen, and he assumed the attorneys got it from the other person’s phone.
“Did you know that 12 days ago, 12 days ago, your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone, with every text message you’ve sent from the last two years?” Bankston said, explaining the defense did not take any steps to respond or clarify the information was privileged.
He said, “That is how I know you lied to me when you said you didn’t have text messages about Sandy Hook.”
Bankston later said his team was going through the data now and would make public or send to law enforcement anything they found necessary to be shared.
Earlier on Wednesday, Jones insisted he believed the theories of a man named Dr. Steve Pieczenik about Sandy Hook, because he was a trusted source of his in the past.
“He gave us a lot of info over the years that turned out to be dead on,” Jones explained before saying Pieczenik turned out to be “wrong” this time.
Jones went on to admit calling the shooting fake was “absolutely irresponsible,” and he now believes the incident was “100% real.” He said he would like to work with Lewis and the nonprofit she started called the Choose Love Movement.
“They won’t let me take it back,” he told the jury, referring to the lawyers and what he calls the “mainstream media.”
The family’s attorney pressed Jones on whether he was taking the trial seriously before showing a clip from Infowars where a guest claimed the proceedings were “scripted” and another clip where Jones implied the jurors “don’t know what planet they are on.”
The attorney, Mark Bankston, also put up a photo reportedly shown on Infowars, depicting Judge Gamble and another judge, with flames over their faces, next to a statue of Lady Justice. Jones insisted the photo showed “justice on fire,” not the judges.
Bankston eventually pressed Jones about the financial information and profits made by Infowars before holding up a $1 bill. He then asked Jones if he was aware his attorneys argue “this” was all he should owe the families in this case.
“Do you agree with that?” he asked before slamming the bill down on the table and saying, “I’ll pay it for you. Are we done?”
When he first took the stand Tuesday, Jones mentioned a recent bankruptcy filing by the parent company of Infowars in his testimony Tuesday. That comment earned a stern warning from the judge to “tell the truth” on the witness stand.
“This is not your show,” Judge Gamble told Jones at the time.
Another attorney for the family, Kyle Farrar, told the jury in closing arguments Wednesday, the lies on Jones’ show lasted years and destroyed lives.
“There has never been a continuous, year-after-year, campaign of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress on people ever,” he said. “The day Sandy Hook happened, Alex Jones planted a seed of misinformation that lasted a decade.”
Farrar went on to say, Jones “watered that seed until it finally bore fruit: cruelty and money.”
On Wednesday, the family’s attorneys asked the jury to first consider a verdict of $150 million in damages to compensate the parents for defamation and mental anguish. Then, the jury will consider calling for additional, punitive damages in a separate verdict.
“I am going to talk to you guys about punishment when the time comes,” Jones defense attorney, Andino Reynal told the jury during his closing statements. “Right now, I am going to talk to you guys about actual damages.”
Jones defense attorney, Andino Reynal, told the jury he did not believe the plaintiffs had shown enough evidence of the impact on the parents’ reputations or mental state to warrant that large of a verdict. Reynal He insisted Jones did not start the conspiracy theories that he amplified on the show and asked the jury to consider “whether Alex’s actions and his words actually caused harm.”
A forensic psychiatrist earlier testified before the jury about the impact on the parents, noting they suffer suffer from ongoing trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder — not only from the loss of their son, but also from living in fear of threats from people who believe the shooting was a hoax.
Outside the courtroom, Jones told reporters, “I did not kill their son. Adam Lanza did, and certainly I am questioning this, because it’s a big public thing that happened — probably did cause them some pain. But it was not intentional. If you can’t differentiate the pain from their son being killed with me questioning things? The idea that I am the progenitor that thought all these anomalies up is simply not true.”
Jones said he had made peace with Heslin and Lewis.
Lewis spoke to Jones directly from the stand on Tuesday, saying forgiveness is different than accountability.
“You don’t understand the net that is cast in a negative way. You don’t understand that. I don’t think you will understand unless there is some form of punishment that is significant that would make you understand this is real,” she said.
She and Heslin have said their goal is to restore their son’s legacy.
Their attorney told the jury, “This verdict will tell the world that Jesse was real.”