AUSTIN — After a grueling 10-day trial, a jury has ruled in favor of Infowars founder and CEO Alex Jones' ex-wife, Kelly, in the custody of their three children.
The jury, which deliberated for roughly nine and a half hours, ruled Thursday night to give Kelly Jones joint custody with the ability to dictate the residence of the children. Previously she had joint custody with limited, supervised visitation rights with residence dictated by Alex Jones.
It was a defeat for Alex Jones, who watched the verdict with a stoic expression and left promptly after the verdict without talking to reporters. Upon hearing the verdict, Kelly Jones dabbed her eyes with a tissue and hugged her lawyer, Robert Hoffman.
Moments later, Kelly Jones spoke briefly to the press, thanking God for the verdict.
"I'm so blessed to have such a wonderful support system, such a wonderful family and friends who stood beside me through all this, and I just pray that from what's happened to my family that people can really understand what parental alienation syndrome is and get an awareness about it, 'cause we could stop this from happening in future," she said.
The verdict came on the same day as the lawyers delivered their closing arguments. On Alex Jones' side, his lawyers portrayed his ex-wife as emotionally unstable and quick to wrongly accuse the Texas family court system of deep corruption against her. Conversely, Kelly Jones' lawyers made the case that Alex Jones was a "master manipulator" who'd alienated the children against her.
"Mr. Jones is like a cult leader," attorney Hoffman told the jury. "And we've seen the horrific damage cult leaders do to their followers."
Hoffman argued that the trial focused unjustly on the faults of Kelly Jones, allowing Alex to fly under the radar. "Is it Mr. Jones' celebrity or his vast wealth that's allowed him to escape detection? Nobody can stop this man," he said to the jury, allowing the words to hang in the air for dramatic effect. "Except for you."
The custody case — a somewhat ordinary family law matter — quickly captured national media attention after news broke that Jones’ attorneys planned to defend his custody on the grounds that his two-plus decades of conspiracy theorizing has been “performance art.”
For onlookers, the trial then offered the allure of answering the burning question: Where does Alex Jones the character end and Alex Jones the man begin?
But the thorny prospect of untangling Jones' professional life from his personal life was largely rejected by the court. Judge Orlinda Naranjo would not allow attorneys for Jones' ex-wife to submit clips from Infowars, Jones' radio and online news outlet that broadcasts his conspiratorial views.
During a hearing last week without the jury present, Naranjo did not allow into evidence multiple clips of Jones angry, shirtless, and ranting on his show. The judge also disallowed a clip of Jones and his 14-year-old son at a party where there was a dartboard plastered with images of Hillary Clinton on the grounds that the evidence was overtly political. "I don't want this case tried in the press. It should be tried in here," the judge told the attorneys.
At another moment this week, one of Alex Jones' lawyers told the court, “I know we were told that we’re not going to allow this court to try Infowars.”
The court got its wish. Infowars and Jones' status as America's best-known conspiracy theorist were rarely mentioned around the jury, save for a few brief moments where Kelly Jones' attorneys noted that Jones "spewed violent hate in his professional life." Only one very short clip of Jones allegedly intoxicated on air was played for the jury. (The clip was edited at the request of the judge to remove the phrase "1776 will commence again" on the grounds that it was political speech.)
Questions of Alex Jones' character were discussed. On the witness stand, Kelly Jones accused him of being a “violent, cruel, and abusive man who engages in hate speech at home and in public.”
She accused him of racist and homophobic comments, as well as frequent comments demeaning to women. “He’s enraged and out of control all the time,” she said, calling Infowars (which Mrs. Jones was involved with many years ago) “a portal of hate.”
Jones and his lawyers meanwhile painted a picture of a kind and gentle family man who never brings his work home with him. "I just want to be with the kids, swim in the pool, and eat hamburgers,” Alex Jones told the court last week.
Far from an indictment of his conspiratorial nature, the trial was largely a role reversal for Jones. For the better part of two weeks, his high-priced attorneys argued that Jones provided a stable and secure life for his family, while simultaneously leveling every mainstream critique that's been hurled at Alex's show and personality for the last two decades at Kelly Jones, railing against her supposed conspiratorial accusations.
At the end of his closing arguments Jones' attorney, David Minton, told the court that Kelly Jones "uses inverted logic and an inverted sense of reality," a line of criticism that might sound familiar to Jones.
Though the trial hardly hinged on Jones' professional career or the defense that his Infowars personality was "performance art," his own testimony provided no shortage of surreal moments.
Testimony from Jones' March 4 deposition revealed that he was unable to recall the names of his children's teachers after eating a big bowl of chili. He admitted to occasionally smoking marijuana — nearly yearly — “to monitor its strength, which is how law enforcement does it.” And in typical Jonesian fashion, he told the court he tested the drug because he believes it is now too strong, thanks to billionaire and political donor George Soros, who he claimed in court has “brain-damaged a lot of people.”
For Jones the end of the trial means not only a resolution in a heated, years-long legal battle, but also the end of an uncharacteristic bit of restraint.
Jones, used to owning the spotlight and speaking his mind, was largely unable to communicate, both personally and professionally, during the trial. Throughout the case — both on the witness stand and behind his attorneys' desk — Jones appeared restless, constantly shifting in his seat, pacing, and running his hands across his face in exasperation. On the stand, he was aggressive and animated. He was admonished by the judge roughly a dozen times for finger pointing, aggressively nodding his head, and refusing to answer witness questions with a simple "yes or no" response.
But though the verdict has been read, it's unlikely Jones will remain silent.
On numerous occasions throughout the two weeks, Jones appeared to flaunt the court's gag order not to speak about the trial. He released a number of videos via Infowars. “I am completely real and everybody knows it,” he said in one video posted Tuesday morning as he was driving to the courthouse.
Just on Thursday morning before the court came into session for the final time, Jones wandered into the gallery and took a seat directly next to the members of press who've been covering the trial.
"I'm surprised the media missed the biggest story here," he said.
When one reporter asked what exactly that story was, Jones shot back a wry glance.
"You'll find out."
Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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