Good Friday Austin:
It has been almost a year since the Alex Jones-Kelly Jones child custody trial in the Travis County courtroom of District Judge Orlinda Naranjo.
I, like other reporters, never identified the names of the Jones’ three children.
But that now seems a quaint precaution when it comes to their oldest child, their now 15-year-old son, who his father yesterday pushed into a very public place on InfoWars before his huge audience in a manner that appears to make a mockery of Naranjo’s insistence throughout the trial that Alex Jones’ day job had nothing to do with how he parents his children and was of no concern to the court.
Not everyone debuts center stage on Drudge.
Alex Jones seems determined to make his son a celebrity, to make Rex Jones the next Alex Jones.
It’s not hard to understand why Rex Jones, at 15, still in braces, wouldn’t want to go into the hugely lucrative and unfathomably ego-affirming family business. And, I suppose, why not blame David Hogg, who, of late, has become a more hated and demonized target of the American right than Hillary Clinton or George Soros.
I will admit that I find Hogg’s arrogance off-putting and unsettling.
But I don’t think Alex Jones thrusting his son into the spotlight is either helpful or model parenting. It is just more narcissism from a narcissist, intended to wring every drop of juice he can out of attacking Hogg while grooming his Mini-Me.
Here, from a month ago, a First Reading: Alex Jones: David Hogg is bullying me and YouTube is trying to shut me down.
Yes, Alex Jones, for all his bravado and bluster, says he’s being bullied by a high school senior.
Hogg is bullying me.
` Look how ugly you are. You’re a piece of crap. You’re a this (shit) journalist’ – I can’t use the cuss words on air.
‘You got sued.’
All of this is defamatory. None of it’s true.
And he’s saying he wants to debate, and I’d bet a lot, and maybe I’m wrong, but I’ll bet you a chicken fried steak and all the beer you can drink, that Hogg does not get on this show live with me.
And I’ll be totally polite, because they want me to try to crucify him.
It’s stupid baiting, whosever handling that account.
But, this week, Jones hit on something way better. Why, deep in middle age and with a vast multi-media empire, call out a teenager for bullying you, when you can have your even younger-than-Hogg, teenage son call out the bully Hogg on your behalf, standing up for his dad.
Hello Mr. Hogg. My name is Rex Jones and I want to make a public statement about you claiming to speak for my generation on guns.
Hogg, you claim that the establishment is shaking in its boots in fear of you. No, they love you. They love gun control. They’ve wanted this for years.
Hogg, you’re a public figure and you call my dad a piece of a S-H-I-you-know-what and you said all kinds of other horrible things.
You challenged my father to a debate and then backed out of it.
The fact is you and your fellow students have been handpicked by the mainstream media to misrepresent the American people and make it look like the average American teen wants to have their First and Second Amendment taken away.
Mainstream media uses you as a child human shield so that you can go out and make outrageous statements without anyone being allowed to rebut you without being labeled a bully. The truth is Mr. Hogg that George Soros and the groups funding your anti-gun march are a clear and present danger to this country and draw a clear parallel to Nazi Germany and authoritarian regimes from the past.
You are submitting to tyranny. You are begging to have the rights our forefathers fought for stripped away.
I am backed up by statistics and facts. You are backed up by falsities and lies.
Mr. Hogg, My dad invited you to come on his show and publicly debate him . You shied away and crawled back under your rock. I, Rex Jones would like to publicly challenge you to debate me. Name the time. Name the place. Name the venue. I will do it.
I talked with Kelly Jones, Alex’s ex-wife and Rex’s mother, last night. She was distraught.
It’s all just very ugly. Its a nasty spirited and very exploitative representation of my son.
Alex knows I don’t want him on the air, so he put him on the air.
It’s horrible. It’s horrific. I don’t see my son at all. My son used to at least to want to come see me. Now he hates me. He’s been taught to be his father’s proxy.
You look at the video and he looks angry. He looks like his father.
Where’s my child in there. I love that child that’s in there. It’s not his fault. It’s horrible. It’s my kid. I love him.
He was exuberant and engaged and helpful and kind and loving and he loved me and he is just a manifestation of the impact – the guy is a cult leader.
I’m so worried about my kid
From my April 16, 2017 story setting up the custody trial
At a recent pretrial hearing, attorney Randall Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo that using his client Alex Jones’ on-air Infowars persona to evaluate Alex Jones as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in “Batman.”
“He’s playing a character,” Wilhite said of Jones. “He is a performance artist.”
But in emotional testimony at the hearing, Kelly Jones, who is seeking to gain sole or joint custody of her three children with Alex Jones, portrayed the volcanic public figure as the real Alex Jones.
“He’s not a stable person,” she said of the man with whom her 14-year-old son and 9- and 12-year-old daughters have lived since her 2015 divorce. “He says he wants to break Alec Baldwin’s neck. He wants J-Lo to get raped.
“I’m concerned that he is engaged in felonious behavior, threatening a member of Congress,” she said, referring to his recent comments about California Democrat Adam Schiff. “He broadcasts from home. The children are there, watching him broadcast.”
Beginning Monday, a jury will be selected at the Travis County Courthouse that in the next two weeks will be asked to sort out whether there is a difference between the public and private Alex Jones, and whether, when it comes to his fitness as a parent, it matters.
For Naranjo, who has been the presiding judge of the 419th District Court since January 2006, it is about keeping her eyes, and the jury’s eyes, on the children.
“This case is not about Infowars, and I don’t want it to be about Infowars,” Naranjo told the top-shelf legal talent enlisted in Jones v. Jones at the last pretrial hearing Wednesday. “I am in control of this court, not your clients.”
Naranjo, meanwhile, said she had never seen or heard Jones on Infowars until Wednesday’s hearing, when Kelly Jones’ legal team started previewing Infowars videos it would like to play for the jury.
The first was a clip from a July 2015 broadcast in which Jones had his son, then 12, on to play the latest of some 15 or 20 videos he had made with the help of members of the Infowars team who, Jones said, had “taken him under their wing” during summer days spent at the South Austin studio between stints at tennis and Christian camps.
“He is undoubtedly cut out for this, and I intend for him to eclipse what I’ve done. He’s a way greater person than I was at 12,” said Jones, turning to his son. “I love you so much, and I didn’t mean to get you up here, sweetheart, and tell people how much I love you, but you’re so handsome, and you’re a good little knight who’s going to grow up, I know, to be a great fighter against the enemy.”
“So far this looks like good stuff,” Wilhite said. Naranjo OK’d it for viewing by the jury.
But Bobby Newman, the attorney for Kelly Jones guiding the court through the Infowars clips, was laying the groundwork for the argument that there is no separation between Alex Jones, father, and Alex Jones, Infowarrior.
“This is the world he has planned for his kids,” said Newman, quoting Alex Jones at a recent hearing insisting that what he says on the air is what he believes.
From my April 25, 2017, story Kelly Jones fears children are ‘morphing into’ ex-husband Alex Jones:
Kelly Jones took the stand at her child custody trial Tuesday and described ex-husband and Austin broadcaster Alex Jones as a “violent, cruel and abusive man” who is “enraged and out of control most of the time.”
While Alex Jones and his attorneys have contended that he leaves the “bombasity” of his Infowars persona at the office, Kelly Jones said Alex Jones spouts what she views as racist, homophobic and anti-women sentiments in both his public and private life and that their children have come to echo him.
“They are morphing into him,” she said.
She said her son, who she said wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, had said, “I hate women,” and had grown “domineering” in his relationship with his 9- and 12-year-old sisters. She said her 12-year-old daughter had said, “Women shouldn’t be judges.”
Asked by her attorney, Robert Hoffman, what she was most fearful of if her husband continues to have almost exclusive custody of the three children, Kelly Jones said it was the prospect of her children, “just absorbing who he is and becoming him.”
The most tense moments of the seventh day of the trial, due to conclude this week, came on the two occasions when Hoffman sought to introduce Alex Jones’ remark, made during an Infowars broadcast over the weekend, that he had had sex with 150 women by the time he was 16.
When Hoffman asked Steven Hagey, a family therapist, about the comment, Judge Orlinda Naranjo sustained an objection by Alex Jones’ attorneys, who argued that Naranjo had said she wanted to keep Infowars out of the trial.
“He also included that he was ashamed of it,” David Minton, an attorney for Alex Jones, said of his client’s Infowars comment, describing Hoffman’s question as a “cheap shot to get something before the jury they can’t get to otherwise.”
“I don’t want this case to be tried in the press. It should be tried in here,” said Naranjo, while denying the third request in as many days for a mistrial by Alex Jones’ attorneys.
But when Hoffman brought up the quote a second time, asking Kelly Jones to comment on her ex-husband’s statement, Naranjo allowed it and a very brief response.
“I mean my son’s 14,” Kelly Jones replied. “If this is something his father’s talking about openly then what values are being conveyed to my son?”
Hoffman had insisted to Naranjo that the comment by Alex Jones wasn’t political, and totally relevant to the case, and the fact that he said it on Infowars during the child custody case shouldn’t make it off-limits.
From my April 18, 2017, story:
Alex and Kelly Jones, who were married about a dozen years before their divorce in 2015, are fighting over their children — aged 9, 12 and 14 — who now live with Alex Jones and with whom Kelly Jones has only severely restricted, supervised visits. She is seeking sole or joint custody.
What sets this trial apart from so many other bitter custody fights is Alex Jones, and the argument by his legal team that his public persona as a bellicose conspiracy theorist is a character he plays — performance art — and not a measure of what kind of parent he is.
“That’s what he does for a living,” said David Minton, the Austin attorney who delivered the opening statement on Alex Jones’ behalf.
But, Minton said of the idea that Jones would come home and feed his children Infowars, “Nothing could be more wrong. You will hear that from Alex Jones today.”
As it turned out, the testimony of two psychologists involved in the case occupied the afternoon and Alex Jones won’t get his day on the stand until Wednesday.
But, on Monday night, in a video posted at Infowars, Jones didn’t seem resigned to his legal team’s strategy.
“They’ve got articles out today that say I’m a fake, all of this other crap. Total bull,” he said. “The media is deceiving everywhere. I, 110 percent, believe what I stand for.”
And, from my April 19, 2017, story:
Kelly Jones’ attorneys also want to demonstrate that there is no clear line between work and home for Jones, and plan to show the jury a tape of his son, now 14, reporting on Infowars when he was 12.
Jones said that his son had been making appearances on the show since he was about 10 and aspires to go into broadcasting like his father. He said his son has reported on topics including private vs. government space travel and littering on the Barton Creek greenbelt, and that he tries to steer him away from the heavier geopolitical topics, though he is very interested in them.
Well, that was back then when Alex Jones was in the middle of a child custody case and Rex Jones was only 14.
But, Jones couldn’t resist the lure of David Hogg and the dramatic possibilities of sending his son out to do battle on his behalf.
Yesterday’s debate challenge was presaged by this Sunday man-in-the street report from downtown Austin by Rex Jones.
In his piece, Rex Jones, posing as a (clearly adolescent) reporter for News 7 stops people on the street, asks if they support “common sense gun control,” shows them a sketch of some diabolical new weapons and asks if they think it should be legal. The general response is bewilderment and agreement that we don’t need more diabolical weapons, for which, in the edit, they are mocked for not calling out the adolescent reporter who has accosted them on the street for perpetrating a fraud.
LIBERALS WANT TO BAN GUNS THAT DON’T EXIST
Including the AK-17 – a screw off nozzle fully semi automatic hacksaw uzi with a bullet button and detachable knife.
What is happening seems to be what Kelly Jones’ attorneys warned Judge Naranjo would happen if Alex Jones maintained what amounted to sole custody of their son.
From my July 20, 2017 First Reading: Case closed? Judge Naranjo issues final orders in Alex/Kelly Jones child custody case
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.
(Note: Based on what has happened since, Kelly Jones said she is appealing, though she can no longer afford Hoffman.)
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.
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.