Good day Austin:
I am not quite prepared to credit state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo with the wisdom of Solomon.
But she did manage yesterday to orally render a permanent order in the child custody case of Alex Jones, his ex-wife Kelly Jones and their three children – a 14-year-old son and 9- and 12-year-old daughters – that it appears neither side is likely to challenge or appeal.
That’s quite an accomplishment, that even in the intensely hostile final hours yesterday of this high-conflict divorce, she seemed unlikely to be able to pull off.
The order in important ways falls short of what Kelly Jones and her attorneys thought she won with a favorable jury verdict after their two-week trial in April..
But it was more favorable than Jones and Robert Hoffman, the Houston attorney who was by her side in court yesterday, feared they were going to get from Naranjo – who Kelly Jones has long thought was in Alex Jones’ corner and who Kelly Jones has been very publicly criticizing in the months since the trial ended.
Kelly Jones had joint conservatorship – that is joint custody – even before the trial but, for all practical purposes, had only very limited visitation with her children, who had been living with Alex Jones since their divorce in 2015. With Naranjo’s order, she will, come this fall, share custody of their daughters 50-50 with her ex-husband, but will have to earn greater visitation rights with her son, who she can only now see in intermittent eight-hour increments.
Texas is the only state in the nation that allows jury trials in child custody cases and Kelly Jones and her lawyers had chosen a jury trial because they didn’t want to leave the decision to Naranjo.
But, as Naranjo reminded Kelly Jones and Hoffman yesterday, she has wide discretion in implementing the jury’s verdict in her order establishing the possession and access rules and schedule – that is determining exactly how much time each child spends with each parent.
Yesterday, Naranjo orally issued her determinations, with a final written order to follow.
Leading up to yesterday’s hearing – the second since the verdict – Kelly Jones and her lawyers worried that Naranjo was determined to simply ignore the jury verdict, and they were prepared, if necessary, to appeal her final order to the Court of Appeals, claiming that Kelly had been denied her right as a Texan to that jury verdict.
But Naranjo’s decision to grant her 50-50 access to her daughters in short order was better than they had feared, and Hoffman said afterward that there was no longer reason to appeal.
Kelly also said in court yesterday that the case had already cost her – from soup to nuts – between $500,00 and 800,000, and she was broke and in debt to her lawyers.
Meanwhile, it seemed that Alex Jones’ lawyers had less incentive to seek a new trial, though Randall Wilhite said today they are reserving a final decision on that.
But, he said, Alex Jones has indicated that he would like to see if they can make Naranjo’s order work.
Alex Jones has a new wife and a new baby and he has said in the past – their hammer-and-tong legal battle aside – that he would like to have his wife more evenly share custody of their children – as she was able.
But, there were other elements of Naranjo’s order that will be a particularly bitter pill for Kelly Jones to swallow.
Kelly Jones built her case against Alex on the argument she was a victim of parental alienation – that is that Alex Jones had effectively brainwashed their three child to hate her. Wilhite says that parental alienation is a self-exculpatory “fantasy” intended to excuse her from the consequences of her own actions.
I think most people observing the two-week trial thought Kelly Jones was on her way to losing the case until the end of the trail when Hoffman – “the closer” – systematically and quite effectively trashed all the expert testimony about the psychology of the relationship between the Joneses and their children, and presented a the case that what was really going on here was parental alienation, a phenomenon that Hoffman argued most all the court-appointed experts had been willfully blind to or ignorant of.
It appeared that Hoffman turned the jury because, if one bought Hoffman’s arguments about parental alienation, all the seemingly compelling evidence of the children’s devotion to their father and fear and loathing of their mother was really evidence of its opposite, evidence that, as Hoffman described it, Alex Jones was a kind of cult leader and his children were members of his cult.
From my story at the time:
In his closing argument Thursday, Kelly Jones’ attorney Robert Hoffman argued that she was the victim of parental alienation with Alex Jones brainwashing their children to align with him and turn against her.
“Mr. Jones is like a cult leader; the children appear to be cult followers, doing what Daddy wants them to do,” said Hoffman.
“Nobody knows how to stop this man,” Hoffman told the jury, and that, he said, included Judge Orlinda Naranjo, who throughout the trial repeatedly told Alex Jones to stop making faces and nodding and shaking his head in reaction to testimony.
“Nobody can stop this man except the 12 of you,” Hoffman said. “You have an unbelievable amount of power.”
When the jury returned its verdict it appeared that Hoffman’s argument had carried the day.
While both parents would retain joint conservatorship of the children, the jury designated Kelly – who had scarcely any visitation time going into the trial – as the primary parent, meaning she got to decide where their primary residence would be.
From my story on the verdict:
Alex Jones will share joint custody, which means that he will have visitation rights. But Kelly Jones and her lawyers want to begin the new arrangement with a period of time in which the children will live exclusively with her while they adjust to the new situation, followed by increased visitation with their father.
She also wants the family involved in a program for undoing parental alienation, the phenomenon in which one parent turns the children against another parent, which she and her lawyers argued was what happened to her when the children began living with Alex Jones. She said during the trial she is thinking of writing a book about it.
“I am so grateful to God that he has kept me and my family strong through this,” Kelly Jones said after the verdict. “I just pray that from what’s happend with my family, people can really understand what parental alienation syndrome is and get an awareness of it and we can stop this from happening in the future.”
But, while to Kelly Jones and her attorneys and to observers like myself, it appeared the parental alienation argument had made the difference, the jury doesn’t explain its reasoning in reaching its judgment.
After the trial, Alex Jones’ lawyers sought to reach all 12 jurors, and succeeded in talking with seven of them. All seven, Wilhite said, told them that jury had thoroughly reviewed the signs of parental alienation described by an expert witness called by Kelly Jones’ lawyers, and determined that in this case, “there was no parental alienation.”
Wilhite got unsworn declarations from the seven jurors to that effect, and informed Naranjo, but she said she did not want to see them.
Yeterday, Wilhite asked Naranjo to include in her order explicit language saying that there was no finding of parental alienation on his client’s part.
Naranjo did not respond to that request, but it was evident yesterday if it wasn’t before, that Naranjo simply did not buy parental alienation as a theory.
In the meantime, though, Kelly Jones has made parental alienation her life’s cause and built a web site – SplitCity.com – dedicated to using her story as an inspiration for other divorced mothers suffering from the phenomenon.
But Naranjo said that in her final order, she would enjoin Kelly Jones from pressing her claims of parental alienation with her children or on social media. She can, the judge said, no longer refer to Alex Jones as an “alienator,” and she said her order will also include some other words and phrases that Kelly Jones must now eschew. Naranjo also said that Kelly Jones can’t tell the children that “Judge Naranjo had undone the jury verdict,” something Kelly Jones denied having told them.
Naranjo said she looked into Family Bridges,which provides the deprogramming from parental alienation that Kelly Jones wanted her and her kids to take advantage of.
It describes itself as “an innovative educational and experiential program that helps unreasonably alienated children and adolescents adjust to living with a parent they claim to hate or fear.”
“I attempted to read up on it, and found “different perceptions about if it’s good or bad,” Naranjo said,
Ultimately she wasn’t sold on it.
Naranjo yesterday also expressed her anger and disappointment with Kelly Jones for, in her estimation, sabotaging the judge’s post-trial order that she engage in reconciliation therapy with her son and a therapist who had worked with her son and who the judge said she had pleaded to stay on the case to help bring mother and son together, even though Kelly Jones during the trial had said that, along with most of the other court-appointed counselors and therapists involved in the case, she did not trust him.
Kelly Jones said she had showed up for the reconciliation therapy as required, but Naranjo said she arrived with such a bad and confrontational attitude that the therapist recused himself.
On Wednesday, Naranjo gave Kelly Jones a week to come up with a short list of other reconciliation therapists in the Austin area that the judge could choose from. And the judge’s order will require that Kelly Jones successfully complete three months of reconciliation therapy with her son and that chosen therapist, or risk not getting any more than eight-hour visits with him until he turns 18.
More broadly, Naranjo said that the Joneses can no longer disparage one another to their children or in a media, social media or public setting that could get back to their children.
They both, Naranjo said, had to put aside their selfish anger with one another for the children’s sake.
I get it. Of course. But still.
My wife and I have long agreed we would never get divorced.
First, I don’t see how anyone can afford to get divorced. It’s a rich man and woman’s game.
But second, what’s the point of going through the most embittering experience one can contemplate and not vent to your children and play the blame game? If you want to pretend not to hate each other, why not just stay married?
But, I digress.
The Jones child custody saga – or this chapter of it – drew to a close with first Kelly Jones and then Alex Jones taking the stand yesterday afternoon at the Travis County Courthouse.
Most of the examination of Kelly Jones by Alex Jones’ lawyers was intended to show the judge all the terrible things Kelly Jones has said very publicly about Alex Jones – and not incidentally about Judge Naranjo – on Twitter and on videos posted to her website.
Like, most recently, this, which they played for the judge.
Kelly Jones was asked if she had called Alex Jones a “moron” on Inside Edition.
“No,” she said. “I might have said he looks like a moron. Looks moronic. Like a liar. I might have said that.”
His lawyers flashed some of Kelly Jones’ tweets on a screen had her read some of them aloud.
And, indeed, her post-trial Twitter feed is all about parental alienation and Alex Jones as unhinged nut job.
“This is called sandbagging,” complained Hoffman, who said that it was utterly unfair for Naranjo to have precluded him and his co-counsel from playing choice excerpts from Alex Jones on Infowars to the jury during the trial while now making all of Kelly Jones’ public utterances fair game.
“What’s good for the goose has got to be good for the gander,” he said.
Indeed, just about the only Infowars tidbit that made it before the jury was, as I wrote at First Reading: In midst of custody battle, Alex Jones reveals that at 16, ‘I’d already had over 150 women.’
There was also Alex Jones’ wild press conference on the courthouse steps the day after the verdict
For a blow-by-blow of this press conference see First Reading: Alex Jones ungagged: Post-trial, the Infowarrior tells the `little vampires’ of the MSM how much they suck.
But, Hoffman complained, the court did not express the same concern about Alex Jones’ very public behavior as it did about his ex-wife’s.
Indeed, throughout the proceeding there was, as I wrote First Reading, a Role reversal: In custody trial, Kelly Jones is the Infowarrior and Alex Jones the status quo
Here again yesterday was America’s greatest purveyor of conspiracy theories, on the stand proclaiming, “I trust the judiciary and especially this judge. She’s very judicious.”
During his testimony yesterday, Jones psychoanalyzed his ex-wife.
“It’s all about her personal struggle … the kids become pawns … I’m the alienator so she’s the hero, the movie star.”
“This is Infowars,” Hoffman objected. “This is Infowars.”
Naranjo refused to reconsider her ruling not to require Alex Jones to pay attorney’s fees for the case, even though Hoffman said it would have been customary to do so in a case with this outcome.
Naranjo has yet to decide what child support to include in the final order, though has agreed to pay some $100,000 for school tuition, tutoring, extra-curricular activities and medical expense
Hoffman made a dogged and almost comical stab at finding out how much Alex Jones is worth to establish the context for child support.
Jones said he really didn’t know how much he makes each year.
Couldn’t even make a guess at it.
“I’m kind of like JFK, not heavy on the accounting side,” he said, or at least those are the words I heard and wrote down though I have no idea what they mean.
“More than $10 million?” Hoffman asked.
“I don’t believe so,” Jones said.
How about an “annual income of $250 million a year,” Hoffman said.
“I wish I did,” Jones said.
David Minton, the Austin attorney who worked with Wilhite on the case, said this financial information was part of the court record for the trial – which like everything else in this case is and continues to be sealed – though Hoffman said he had no idea what Minton was talking about.
During their respective time on the witness stand during the trail, Kelly Jones managed to come across as more poised and balanced than her ex-husband.
From my story on Alex Jones’ time on the stand during the trial:
Kelly Jones’ legal team is attempting to show that Jones has been responsible for the children’s alienation from their mother. Jones has insisted that he bent over backwards to make the children visit and get along with their mother, to no avail.
“I should not have pushed as hard as I did,” he said.
But when Newman asked Alex Jones to describe Kelly Jones’ good qualities as a mother, Jones, staring at his ex-wife, said, “I cannot perjure myself. She doesn’t have any good qualities.”
Later, he qualified that, saying she has some good qualities, but “any good is sandwiched with bad.”
“There’s a term, `no good,’” he said. “It doesn’t mean there’s no good in it. It means no good comes out of it.”
When Kelly Jones was asked the same question, she allowed that Alex Jones had some good qualities – that he was funny and that he could be great taking the kids on outdoor adventures.
The months since the giddy moments after the jury verdict have taken their toll on Kelly Jones, on the composure she mustered during the trial.
Hoffman assured her afterward that they had made great progress in restoring her relationship with her children.
But ordering her to stop talking about parental alienation is like ordering Alex Jones to quit talking about globalism, false flags, the deep state conspiracy to take out Donald Trump, or, well, on and on.
Or worse, if you believe that what she is talking about is real and what he is talking about is not.
But yesterday, it seemed, despite the jury verdict, Kelly Jones was still the one on trial, and the Jones who had to curb her tongue.