In 'Perry Mason moment,' lawyer impeaches Infowars host Alex Jones with texts mistakenly sent by opposing counsel
Mark Bankston, a lawyer for Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, asks Infowars host Alex Jones questions about text messages during trial at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday. Photo by Briana Sanchez/The Austin American-Statesman via the Associated Press.
Updated: A lawyer for the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, confronted Infowars host Alex Jones on Wednesday with information from texts said to be mistakenly sent by Jones’ lawyers.
Lawyer Mark Bankston revealed the blunder while Jones was on the stand in a trial to establish defamation and emotional-distress damages for the broadcaster’s false claims that the 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was a hoax.
Law360 and the New York Times have Bankston’s comment.
“Mr. Jones,” Bankston said, “did you know that 12 days ago, your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cellphone with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years, and when informed, did not take any steps to identify it as privileged or protected in any way, and as of two days ago, it fell free and clear into my possession and that is how I know you lied to me when you said you didn’t have text messages about Sandy Hook.”
“This is your Perry Mason moment,” Jones responded, referring to the old TV show in which defense lawyer Perry Mason won cases after last-minute revelations.
Jones maintained that “I’m not a tech guy” to explain why he previously testified that he was unable to provide the plaintiffs with text messages about Sandy Hook.
The texts could also be of interest to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot, according to the New York Times. The newspaper reports that Jones is being scrutinized in connection with planning events around the attack. Bankston is asking the judge’s permission to give the texts to the committee, the New York Times reports in a later story.
Bankston also highlighted text messages showing that Infowars made around $100,000 to $200,000 per day. One day, Bankston said, Infowars made about $800,000. That contradicted Jones’s claims about income, Bankston alleged. Infowars has filed for bankruptcy, as have other Jones business ventures.
Bankston also confronted Jones with broadcast segments in which he disparaged the judge, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Texas. Jones said Gamble came from child protective services, which has been exposed for “working with pedophiles.” He also showed a photograph of the judge engulfed in flames.
Bankston represents parents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis in the lawsuit. Gamble had entered a default judgment against Jones in September 2021 for failing to turn over requested information.
Jones’ lawyer, F. Andino Reynal, previously got media attention for flipping the bird at Bankston during a heated discussion after Gamble left the bench.
On Thursday, Reynal filed an emergency motion to protect the cellphone information and requested a mistrial, report Law.com, the Austin American-Statesman and the Independent in a story printed by Yahoo News.
Reynal argued that he had complied with a Texas “snapback” law that allows lawyers to claw back evidence sent by mistake to legal opponents. Reynal said he had sent Bankston an email to “please disregard the link” to cellphone files when Bankston informed him of the possible error.
Bankston countered that the “please disregard” response created no legal duty on his part. He said Reynal had to identify the privileged material.
Gamble denied the mistrial motion, but she allowed Reynal to review the cellphone information and mark the items that he wants to keep confidential.
Updated Aug. 4 at 4:15 p.m. to report on the mistrial motion. Updated Aug. 5 at 9:15 a.m. to report on compensatory damages.
ABAJournal.com: “Infowars host who called Sandy Hook shooting a ‘giant hoax’ loses suits because of discovery abuse”
ABAJournal.com: “Infowars host’s lawyer says the N-word in a dropped-pants comedy routine; should he face discipline?”