Alex Jones' lawyer asked for an emergency court order blocking the release of the InfoWars host's text messages and other cellphone data, arguing that the material had been inadvertently provided to — and improperly downloaded by — lawyers for the parents of Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis.
Mark Bankston, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook parents, revealed the cache of information while Jones was on the stand Wednesday, saying "your attorneys messed up and sent me the entire digital copy, with every text message you sent in the past two years."
Bankston used the information to rebut Jones' claim that he had searched for every text containing the words "Sandy Hook" without success.
That exchange — derided by Jones as Bankston's "Perry Mason moment" — expanded Thursday morning into a larger legal fight over Bankston's stated plans to send the information, as requested, to the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
With jurors out of the courtroom, Reynal asked state District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble to order Bankston to keep the data confidential and destroy any copies made, saying it also included confidential attorney-client communications and medical records that Bankston did not have a right to view.
Texas rules give lawyers 10 days to claim that privileged material was inadvertently provided, triggering a duty to return the information, Reynal said. Almost two weeks ago, after Bankston informed him that links to numerous files might have been sent in error, Reynal said he quickly responded by saying, "Please disregard the link."
"This never should've gotten this far," Reynal told the judge. "When I told him to please disregard the link, that should've been enough."
Bankston disagreed with Reynal's interpretation of the rules of civil procedure, saying Reynal can claim information is privileged only if he identifies specific material and clearly states the privilege asserted. Reynal never did, he said.
Merely saying "please disregard" in a reply email "creates no ... legal duty on me whatsoever," Bankston said.
The information provided by Reynal's office included links to psychiatric reports for Sandy Hook plaintiffs in a separate Connecticut case that Reynal was not entitled to have, Bankston said, adding that he immediately destroyed that data after realizing what it was.
"Mr. Reynal is, right now, using a fig leaf of this motion ... to cover his own malpractice, a fig leaf to cover his own breach of duty to his client," Bankston told the judge.
Reynal asked the judge to put a hold on disclosing the data to the House committee. "If not, the cat's out of the bag," he said.
Bankston said he intended to turn the data over unless ordered not to do so.
Guerra Gamble said she didn't believe she could stop the disclosure if the committee issues a subpoena.
The judge also gave Reynal time to go through the documents and mark what he wants to keep confidential, which she will review. "I am not going to seal the entire quantity of information without knowing what was in it," Guerra Gamble said.
"That is a tremendous amount of information," Reynal said, but the judge did not sympathize, noting that Jones and his frequently changing team of lawyers had failed to comply with orders to turn over relevant information to the Sandy Hook families for years.
"It probably should've been disclosed a year ago or longer," the judge said, adding that if it had been, these issues could have been worked out before the trial began last week.
Reynal also asked the judge to declare a mistrial. That was denied.
Outside the courthouse, Bankston said he was awaiting the judge's decision before turning over the information requested by the Jan. 6 committee.
"We should know by the end of the day," he said.
Bankston said he saw texts dating "as far back as 2019" but had not taken the time to examine the data beyond what was needed for the current trial.
As for the Jan. 6 committee, "I don't even know if it covers the time period that they're interested in," he said.
"They asked for my cooperation, to voluntarily turn it over. I, of course, said I would be cooperating with them," Bankston said.
On Thursday afternoon, a Connecticut judge ordered Reynal to appear in her court Aug. 17 to explain why he should not be sanctioned, or referred to "disciplinary authorities," for possible violations of state and federal law by providing access to confidential medical records of the Sandy Hook plaintiffs in her court.
The brief show-cause order from Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis said Reynal also might have violated her protective order on confidential information.
In January, Jones told his InfoWars audience that he had sat for questions by the Jan. 6 committee but had declined to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination "almost 100 times."
Jones, who joined protesters outside the Capitol but did not enter the building on Jan. 6, said he declined to answer questions under oath because he feared that small mistakes could open him to perjury charges from vindictive committee members
"The whole thing is tainted," he said of the investigation by the U.S. House select committee. "It's like a big bowl of soup. You put one rat turd in it, it's no good. Well, this has got hundreds of rat turds in it. I'm not eating the soup."
The committee sent Jones a subpoena in November seeking documents and a deposition that could shed light on the events before and during the Jan. 6 attack.
"In the lead-up to events of Jan. 6, you and others on InfoWars repeatedly promoted President Trump's allegations of election fraud and urged people to come to Washington D.C. for the Jan. 6 Ellipse rally," said a committee letter that accompanied the subpoena.
The committee also noted that Jones highlighted a Dec. 19 Donald Trump tweet — "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!" — during an InfoWars broadcast that same day.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Legal fight erupts over Alex Jones texts sought by Jan. 6 committee