UPDATE (August 5, 2022, 7:10 PM ET): This story has been updated to include additional information from plaintiffs’ attorney about Alex Jones’ cellphone data, which the defendant’s legal team accidentally shared with opposing counsel last month.
It was the moment Perry Mason heard around the world. And by that, I mean Wednesday’s live revelation that lawyers for far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones inadvertently sent two years of text messages and emails from Jones’ cellphone to his opponents in a defamation lawsuit.
Using these emails and texts wisely and strategically, Texas attorney Mark Bankston gave a masterclass in cross-examination, alleging that Jones lied about everything from his very use of email to his financial situation to the sincerity of his stated belief that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax. It’s no wonder a jury found that Jones, who was held liable in absentia for refusing to provide relevant documents, including text messages and emails, now owes $50 million – $4.1 million in damages and $42.5 million in punitive damageswho Jones’ lawyer has already promised to contest – to the parents of Jesse Lewis, 6, who was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre.
You’d think it couldn’t get any worse for the Infowars host. But even before the jury announced the award of damages, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble issued a ruling that could far overshadow Jones’ financial troubles: She ruled that with the exception of certain medical records owned by other Sandy Hook families, Bankston’s possession and use of Jones’ phone data was generally fair game. Why? Because Jones’ attorney – who realized his mistake but only asked that the other side “disregard” what he shared – did not specifically identify any privileged material in the 10 days allowed by Texas court rules.
And his this decision that will make Jones’ life truly miserable. Not only did this expose him to punitive damages to Lewis’s family and significant damages in two other similar Sandy Hook cases, but it could also expose Jones to criminal investigation and prosecution in three areas outside of Sandy Hook: bankruptcy fraud, obstruction of Congress. and all crimes committed in connection with the January 6 attack. (And that’s not even counting the exposure Jones might have simply for lying under oath in prior depositions or on the stand.)
First, while the lawsuit was pending, Jones’ parent media company filed for federal bankruptcy protection, as did some of its subsidiaries in April. Court proceedings on Wednesday, however, suggest that Jones’ poverty claims are false. Although Jones testified that he ‘lost millions of dollars’ after he and Infowars were ‘deplatformed’ in 2018 from YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Apple, content from Jones’ phone apparently shows his income increased. – and that on some days he made over $800,000 from products sold in Infowars ads. If Jones’ bankruptcy filings reflect similar discrepancies, he could be referred to the Justice Department for investigation; it is a federal crime to make false or misleading statements in bankruptcy proceedings and/or to knowingly file fraudulent documents in bankruptcy proceedings as part of a larger fraud scheme, including to conceal assets to its adversaries in litigation.
Second, there’s a lot of talk about the request reported by the House committee on Jan. 6 for the contents of Jones’ phone — and Bankston’s announcement that he will comply with that request.
To be fair, Bankston admitted Thursday that while he and his co-lawyer have seen text messages “as far back as 2019,” they don’t know “the full scope and extent” of what’s on the Jones’ phone, let alone if “it even covers the time period” of interest to the committee. (Jones’ attorney, for his part, told the court that the texts produced covered more than six months “from the end of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020.”) On Friday, Bankston gave a disappointing update for The Austin- American Statesman: “It looks like this phone was scratched in mid to late 2020.” Still, Bankston’s comments don’t seem definitive, and the well-rounded committee will devour the phone’s content. and if there are communications from 2020 and 2021, Jones could be more at risk.
Here’s why: When the committee issued a subpoena to Jones last November, it not only demanded his testimony, but demanded that he produce relevant documents within weeks. Jones finally testified last January — and claimed to have invoked the Fifth Amendment about 100 times — but apparently did not produce his texts.
These texts remain of keen interest to the committee, which, according to the New York Times, has been trying to obtain them for months – and for good reason. As the committee observed in its subpoena to Jones, media reports and his own statements reflect that he:
- Allegations of voter fraud “repeatedly promoted” and urged his listeners to attend the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol in a way that implied he had knowledge of the President’s plans for era, Donald Trump;
- Was told by the White House on or about January 3, 2021 that after the Ellipse rally was over, he was to “lead a march to the Capitol, where President Trump would meet with the group”;
- Speaks at the Jan. 5 Freedom Plaza rally at Trump’s request;
- Helped organize the Jan. 6 Ellipse rally, “including facilitating a donor. . . provide what [Jones] characterized as “eighty percent” of the financing; ” and
- Walked, with “Stop the Steal” leader Ali Alexander and others, from the Ellipse to the Capitol on January 6, where he was recorded “telling people not to be violent and to come together from east side of the Capitol to hear President Trump speak.
As The Times noted, Jones also has a “wide range of ties to people in pro-Trump circles” and was “closely involved” in two Washington-based rallies on November 14 and December 12, 2020, for which The Oath Keepers provided security.
Additionally, along with longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, Jones was among those Trump allies “gathering in and around, or staying” at the Willard Hotel in Washington, where Jones interviewed the former adviser at National Security Michael Flynn on Jan. 5. Among the texts included in Jones’ phone data, as passed to Lewis’s family attorney, are what Bankston described as “intimate messages” between Stone and Jones.
In short, Jones’ fingerprints — and his connections — are everywhere on January 6 and the weeks leading up to it. And if Jones’ phone proves his involvement in Jan. 6 and/or plans to nullify the 2020 election in a way that contradicts Jones’ prior testimony, Jones could also be investigated for investigation. one or both of which Stone has previously been convicted of. Trump forgave him: obstruction of due process and misrepresentation to Congress.
Third and finally, Bankston also revealed in court that the January 6 Committee is not the only investigative body to request the phone. “Several law enforcement agencies” also requested the phone data, Bankston told the judge, adding that he intended to comply with those requests “immediately”. And while Bankston didn’t mention the Justice Department by name, it’s reasonable to assume that the DOJ is one of “various federal agencies” that came calling.
Since the season finale of the committee hearings on Jan. 6 last month, public reports show that the DOJ’s own investigation is moving at a faster pace than expected or understood. In recent days, we have learned that the Justice Department has issued grand jury subpoenas to at least four Trump White House aides: Greg Jacob, Marc Short, Pat Cipollone and Pat Philbin. A fifth Trump White House staffer, Cassidy Hutchinson, is said to have been cooperating with the DOJ investigation.
Jones, on the other hand, was in talks with the DOJ about possible cooperation in his investigation. month there – but only offered his help in exchange for immunity from prosecution. It’s unclear whether Jones ultimately reached a settlement with federal investigators, but his willingness to show leniency at a much earlier phase of the DOJ’s work, coupled with his recent and dramatic advances, only underscores why scrutiny federal government’s phone data could be more bad news. for Jones.
Of course, if Jones has anything to worry about beyond additional liability for defamation, it’s something only he (and his messaging and texting buddies) know. It is also possible that the real the damage Jones could do is less to himself than to a number of others – like Stone, Flynn or even Trump himself – in his orbit.
Nonetheless, if Wednesday’s jaw-dropping twist in Jones’ trial turns out to be either its own Achilles heel or a key plot point in the Jan. 6 denouement, you won’t find me speechless anymore. and speechless.