Good Wednesday Austin:
The Travis County courtroom where the Alex Jones-Kelly Jones child custody trial is taking place is very small.
The first few days of the trial I sat hugging the back wall to be close to an outlet where I could keep my laptop plugged in.
But then Judge Orlinda Naranjo last Wednesday ordered all the electronics in the courtroom unplugged, and distributed yellow pads and pens to reporters in attendance.
Thus liberated from my electronic umbilical cord, I crept forward in the courtroom, which is only a few rows deep, and the last several days have sat front row center, giving me a direct view of Alex Jones, seated about two feet away.
More than most anyone I can think of, Alex Jones’ face is an open book, and a page turner at that.
Much to the exasperation of Kelly Jones’ lawyers, and the repeated scolding of Judge Orlinda Naranjo, Alex Jones’ face registers, second by second, his reaction to every bit of incoming stimulus. Sometimes he adds head shakes and nods for emphasis, but even stock still (though with his nervous energy, he is never really stock still), his face illuminates his every impression.
So, with my front-row seat yesterday, I watched Jones with great interest as his ex-wife, to whom he was married for a dozen years and with whom he has three children whose fate is now the subject of the trial, spent most of yesterday on the witness stand.
When Jones testified last week, he was cross-examined by Bobby Newman, an attorney for his wife, who asked him to describe Kelly Jones’ good qualities as a mother. Jones, staring directly at Kelly Jones, paused, considered the question and then answered, “I cannot perjure myself. She doesn’t have any good qualities.”
That answer was so severe I wondered if, deep down, he really meant it.
And, watching him as Kelly Jones testified for most of a long day in court yesterday, I wondered whether, if he were asked the same question again after watching her in action he might answer differently because, even as she savaged him as a“violent, cruel and abusive man” who is “enraged and out of control most of the time,” there was something in her performance that I thought might resonate with her ex.
The Kelly Jones who took the stand was different from the person I had expected, especially for all the talk and expert testimony during the trial till now suggesting that she suffered from emotional dysregulation and even transient psychosis, which were new terms to me and, especially emotional dysregulation, seemed a kind of eye-of-the-beholder catchall for an emotional reaction that didn’t fall within normal or acceptable bounds.
I figured that meant her testimony would be a tightrope walk that might see her plunge into a dysregulatory state that would seal her fate.
Instead, Kelly Jones was the picture of calm and composure. She did descend into tears a couple of times, but only briefly. Otherwise, she appeared steadfast, in control and unflappable, even as she was confronted by answers she gave in an earlier deposition that did not always exactly align with statements she made yesterday.
And, unlike Alex Jones, Kelly jones often spoke directly to the jury.
This was in contrast to her ex-husband who, for all his experience being “on,” proved eminently flappable when he testified last week.
Alex Jones has made a hugely successful career out of regularly dysregulating against the global elite on Infowars, but on the witness stand, he was incapable, for example, of delivering a more jury-friendly answer when asked if he could say anything positive about the mother of his children.
But, what made yesterday’s scene even more deeply interesting, was the line of attack that Randall Wilhite, his lawyer, employed in an effort to undermine Kelly Jones’ credibility, a line of attack that ought to have had a familiar ring for Alex Jones.
Earlier, at great length, Robert Hoffman, Newman’s co-counsel representing Kelly Jones, wrote the names on an easel of some 27 experts – therapists, counselors, supervisors, the guardian ad litem in the case, the case manager – all of whom, according to Hoffman and Newman and Kelly Jones, for all their supposed smarts, got the family dynamics in the case upside down.
“I think they got it wrong,” she said firmly. “I think they got it backwards.”
Hoffman made the case that the experts did not understand how parental alienation works – the ways in which one parent, in this case Alex Jones, can turn the children against he other parent, in this case Kelly Jones – and didn’t have the foggiest notion of how to assess it and deal with it.
And how they were all well compensated for getting it consistently wrong and to the benefit of Alex Jones.
Of the participation of all those experts, Kelly Jones aid, “I think it’s made it worse.”
But Wilhite catalogued her doubts about all those experts with all their training and degrees, and all the lawyers – and money – she has gone through before finding the current capable legal team, to build a case that Kelly Jones must be some kind of a nut – that everyone else can’t be wrong, so she must be wrong, and maybe crazy.
As I wrote yesterday:
He presented her as a woman who was distrustful of virtually all the other parties in the long life of the case — the therapists, counselors and even the judges — depicting them as all in league against her.
“They were all swayed by him (Alex Jones), they’re all wrong, they’re all corrupt, they’re all biased,” Wilhite said of her mindset.
Kelly Jones, who remained calm though out her long day of testimony — while tearing up on a couple of occasions — said that was more or less correct, though by corrupt she didn’t mean they were taking money under the table, but that they were exceeding their authority and not faithfully executing their duties, and that sometimes the bias she referred to was a confirmation bias, in this case a shared prejudgment that Alex Jones was right in her disputes with him and that he didn’t require any scrutiny while she received microscopic attention.
As I watched Alex Jones I wondered if it could be lost on him that in this legal proceeding, Kelly Jones was playing the role of Alex Jones – albeit a quieter and more composed Alex Jones – that she was the Infowarrior, while he and his attorney were playing the role of the status quo and the global elite, attempting to crush Kelly Jones because she was challenging those with the power and the money and the degrees and the titles, crushed because she dared to call a conspiracy a conspiracy.
The difference, aside from their tone, is that while, for Kelly Jones, it is the Travis County Family Court system that is rigged, for Alex Jones it is the whole wide world.
Indeed, even as the trial was ongoing, Chobani Yogurt filed suit this week against Jones and Infowars for what would appear to be classic Infowars’ kitchen-sink conspiracy-theorizing about them.
From Christine Hauser at the New York Times:
One of the InfoWars stories that is the subject of Chobani’s lawsuit involved a 2016 sexual assault in Twin Falls that drew national headlines. The InfoWars video promoted on Twitter on April 11 reported that three children involved in the assault were refugees, and then it gave details of Mr. Chobani’s policy of hiring refugees in the city.
The Twin Falls county prosecutor, Grant Loebs, said in an interview on Tuesday that the assault case had nothing to do with Chobani. He said he was not authorized to speak about the details because the case involved minors, although he noted that the local news media had been reporting on it since it happened last year.
Mr. Loebs said that on June 2, 2016, a 5-year-old girl at an apartment complex in Twin Falls was sexually assaulted by three boys, ages 7, 10 and 14. Two of them were refugees from Eritrea, and one was from Iraq. The children pleaded guilty to separate charges including sexual exploitation of a child and misdemeanor battery.
“There was no gang rape, no knife attack, and we did not charge anybody with rape because no rape occurred,” Mr. Loebs said.
The lawsuit filed by Chobani said Mr. Jones and his companies had declined to remove the reports or publish a retraction despite multiple written demands.
It said the defendants acted with “actual malice” to harm Chobani’s reputation and to discourage customers from purchasing its products. The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial, and the amount of “substantial damages” Chobani has suffered will be provided at a trial.
The lawsuit also noted that Mr. Jones was “no stranger to spurious statements.” It cited his previous contentions that the Sept. 11 attacks were orchestrated by the United States government and that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax concocted by those hostile to the Second Amendment.
And, from Derek Hawkins at the Washington Post:
In an audio statement posted on his YouTube channel Monday night, Jones said “sources” in the White House and Congress told him that billionaire George Soros, a frequent target of Jones’s attacks, was behind the lawsuit. Soros is not named in court documents, and there is nothing suggesting he is involved in any way.
In other words, even as Alex Jones’ attorney was attempting to carve up his ex-wife for what was suggested was her unfounded conspiracy mongering, his client was in real-time involved in a far more obviously tenuous flight of conspiratorial fancy.
But, if deep inside, Alex Jones yesterday was watching Kelly Jones’ performance and remembering why he fell in love with her, and perhaps feeling the stirring of a nostalgic “atta girl,” he didn’t show it.
And yet, they were a couple, and even as Kelly Jones yesterday denounced what she described as Infowars’ “hateful” turn, until the divorce she part of the management at Infowars, and one simply does not fall in love and marry Alex jones, and Alex Jones doesn’t fall in love and marry you, if you do not share a certain conspiratorial turn of mind and emotional identification with what Alex Jones describes as the resistance to the powers that be.
Now, I have not the slightest idea whether Kelly Jones’ claims are justified. But, it doesn’t surprise me at all that a particular court system – or the culture of any particular corporation, college administration, police force, military detachment, fraternity or any other institutions – could find itself corrupted by a status quo, this-is-how-we-do-things self-interest.
After all, isn’t that what Republicans think government is, a bunch of back-scratching, featherbedders?
The whistle-blower in these cases is frequently denounced as a malcontent or a loon.
Alex Jones is always complaining that his detractors call him crazy.
The real surprise, then, is not that Kelly Jones should be denouncing the Travis County Family Court system as beholden to the powers that be, but that Alex Jones should find himself, in this context, a member in good standing of the powers that be.
One might expect the smart set not to become enmeshed with someone as socially unacceptable as Alex Jones, who, after all, has added to the pain of the parents of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre by suggesting that their children’s death may have been a hoax – and he thinks it’s OK to keep saying that because he is careful now to say that it is not an open-and-shut case.
But, remarkably, most of the people involved in the child custody case seem to have little or no firsthand knowledge of what Alex Jones does on Infowars. They have simply never watched or listened to him. Ever.
Kelly Jones obviously knows all about it, but I think her lawyers really have a cartoon version of Infowars as unrelievedly vile, which it is not.
And, I think the strategy of Alex Jones’ lawyers is, the less they know about the show the better.
Judge Naranjo and any number of expert witnesses said they had never caught the show – at least until whatever was shown at this trial.
And, as Hoffman pointed out repeatedly, Alex Jones seemed to “fly under the radar” of these experts’ professional curiosity, which zeroed in almost exclusively on Kelly Jones and her emotional dysregulation as the problem.
It would be as if experts brought in to examine the Donald Trump-Ivana Trump divorce some years ago knew nothing about Donald Trump and his public persona, and thought that he did not merit some psychological probing. (Ivana got the kids.)
Even Alex Jones’ parents, Carol and David Jones, who testified they now make millions working with their son in what Carol described as the “family business,” seemed to have only the most passing acquaintance with their son’s show.
When David Jones was asked Monday if he thought it was healthy for his three grandchildren to be exposed to what his son broadcasts, the elder Jones said “99 percent of the material on Infowars I would like the kids to be exposed to.”
Well, that suggests that either David Jones spends very little time listening to the enterprise which so richly rewards him, or he has a warped sense of what his 14-year-old grandson, let alone his 9 and 12-year-old granddaughters, ought to be imbibing.
I suppose he might say this falls within the 1 percent that might not be so edifying for the grandkids, though Alex Jones contended that any sophisticated viewer would realize this was “tongue-in-cheek.”
But then, one never knows what will pop up on Infowars, as in say 40-odd minutes deep in this very odd return to Sandy Hook report, which was posted on Infowars this weekend, smack dab in the middle of this child custody trial.
When I was 16, I didn’t want to party any more. I didn’t want to play games any more.
I grew up. I’d already been in the fights, all the big rituals. I’d already had probably – I hate to brag, but I’m not bragging, it’s actually shameful – probably 150 women, or more, that’s conservative. I’d already had over 150 women. I’d already been in fights with full-grown men. I was already dating college girls by the time I was 15-years-old. I was already a man at 16.
Can what he said possibly be true?
That would mean that, if he spread the action over his 14th, 15th and 16th years, he would be having sex with a new and different woman – not counting any repeats – on the average of about one a week every week for three years.
It gives new meaning to, “How was your day son?”
And it makes one wonder whether David Jones brought the same scrutiny to what was happening in his own home that he now brings to monitoring the content on Infowars.
Unless, of course the story is apocryphal, and Alex Jones is just making it up, but that is just as odd.
(There is also no explanation of what Jones is referring to when he says on the same video, By 24, I had a son. Jones turned 24 in 1998. That would that make that son 18 or 19 now. But the son whom he is seeking to retain custody of in court is 14.)
The big hurdle for Kelly Jones is to explain to the jury how she, the mother, ended up with virtually no access to her children a couple of years after her divorce. Why did Alex Jones get custody of the children?
The obvious answer, according to Alex Jones’ attorneys, is her “emotional dysregulation.”
But Kelly Jones argued again yesterday that she was, effectively, railroaded by a rigged system that included her own lawyer at the time.
“I did not sign that decree,” she said yesterday. “I never saw it and didn’t sign it.”
Last week the jury heard an audiotape of Kelly Jones, at an arbitration hearing on the divorce settlement, railing on everyone, including her own lawyer.
Here are some snatches I took down as quickly as I could on my legal pad.
I am an American. I have constitutional rights. I protest. I am a constitutional American. You cannot take away my due process. You cannot take away my constitutional rights. You cannot do that.
I’m not crazy. This is a secret tribunal arranged by big money.
It’s an abomination. I’m a constitutional American.
And, in what must have been a remark aimed directly at Alex Jones: You are laughing at me, Mr. Constitution.
She does sound a bit hysterical on the tape.
But she sounded anything but hysterical yesterday.
Wilhite made sure the jury knew that Kelly Jones had taken Propranolol – a beta blocker known as the stage fright drug for its ability to ease anxiety.
In other words, he wanted the jury to know that if the Kelly Jones they were seeing was not the round-the-bend Kelly Jones they had been led to expect, it was because she was on drugs.
But Kelly Jones was unfazed by that line of questioning.
Did she think that her regularly taking Propranolol meant she a “drug problem,” Wilhite asked her.
“No,” she said, “I absolutely don’t.”