The jury has been seated. On Tuesday, the Alex Jones/Kelly Jones trial begins in earnest with opening statements and the testimony of Alex Jones.
State District Judge Orlinda Naranjo may also, without the jury present, listen to some more videotapes of Alex Jones on “Infowars” that attorneys for Kelly Jones would like to play for the jury.
The Jones divorce was finalized in 2015. They have three children -- a 14-year-old son and two daughters, ages 9 and 12. The children live with Alex Jones. Kelly Jones has limited visitation. She has gone to court to try to gain sole or joint custody of the children.
While attorneys for Kelly Jones had expected that they would present their case first because they are the ones trying to change the status quo, Naranjo ruled last week that Alex Jones’ legal team would get to go first. Naranjo agreed to that order after his lawyers said they had already been under the understanding that they would go first and had scheduled a number of expert witnesses to be in Austin for trial this week. They estimated it would have cost them about $20,000 to reschedule flights and hotel arrangements not to mention the disruption to those individuals’ professional schedules.
Alex Jones’ demeanor on the stand will be critical to his case.
Jones was in the unaccustomed role of silent observer throughout Monday’s daylong proceedings as a jury was selected, even as his four-hour daily “Infowars” broadcast went on without him.
Jones’ trademark are his raspy, no-holds-barred rants. Kelly Jones’ lawyers want to give the jury a taste of that as evidence of a man out-of-control and hardly an appropriate parent. But Alex Jones’ lawyers at a pretrial hearing portrayed Jones’ on-air persona as just that.
“He’s playing a character,” attorney Randall Wilhite said of Jones. “He is a performance artist.”
Wilhite said using 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.”
But while that defense may improve the chances that Alex Jones will prevail in this trial, it does pose a risk that it will alienate some of his large and devoted listenership if they come to see his dire tirades about the machinations of the global elites as inauthentic.
Since 2015, Jones’ prominence has also grown with his role of promoting and defending first candidate and now President Donald Trump, who tapped into Jones’ audience for support and into Jones’ broadcasts for some of his most contentious and unproven assertions -- whether it was that the election was going to be rigged or that millions of non-citizen immigrants allegedly voted in the 2016 election.
“Alex Jones and his ‘Infowars’ umbrella of radio shows, YouTube and Facebook broadcasts, Internet website and tweets turned out to be Trump’s secret weapon,” Roger Stone, probably Trump’s oldest and closest political confidant, wrote in his book “The Making of the President 2016.”
So far, at a recent pretrial hearing, Naranjo OK’d two videos to be played at trial and nixed two others.
The two that she approved included one in which his son, then 12, appeared on “Infowars” as what amounted to Jones’ anointed heir. The second showed Jones taking a puff of marijuana on comedian Joe Rogan’s live podcast in California in February.
David Minton, another os Jones’ lawyers, pointed out that the puff was legal in California and that Jones, like, Minton said, some members of the Texas Legislature, backs decriminalizing marijuana for adults.
Naranjo did not approve showing the jury a video clip of a confusing scene in which Jones and Stone, the longtime Trump confidant, interrupted live coverage of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland by a left-wing news show called The Young Turks.
She also disallowed showing the jury an expletive-studded diatribe by Jones directed at U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee investigation of Trump’s Russia ties, in which, Schiff has suggested, Stone and Jones might be entangled.
Jones’ rant ends: “You got that, you (expletive) son of a (expletive)? Fill your hand,” echoing John Wayne’s warning in “True Grit” to a man he’s about to shoot and kill.
A few days after his Schiff riff, Jones characterized it on-air as “clearly tongue-in-cheek and basically art performance, as I do in my rants, which I admit I do as a form of art.”