AUSTIN, Texas ― When noisy conspiracy theorist Alex Jones went into his child-custody trial two weeks ago, his ex-wife’s attorneys promised to showcase his vitriolic talk-show comments for the jury as evidence of his lack of fitness as a father.
The spectacle of Jones ― a trusted source of news for President Donald Trump ― having to account for his history of fact-free, aggressive and often spiteful opinionating, attracted a flock of national reporters.
But as the jury began deliberations Thursday, the trial remained what it always was for the Jones family: a bruising custody battle stemming from an ugly divorce.
Travis County Judge Orlinda Naranjo said from the trial’s first day last week that she wouldn’t allow a focus on Jones’ politics or public statements. She refused to admit all but a few recordings that lawyers for Jones’ ex-wife Kelly had planned to play for the jury.
But closing arguments came and went, with Kelly Jones’ lawyers barely mentioning the right-wing star’s on-air comments. Instead, they repeatedly accused Jones of turning the couple’s three children against their mom. Further, they said he paid off therapists to take his side in the case.
“I don’t know whether to call it an ‘army’ or a ‘battalion,’” one of Kelly Jones’ lawyers, Robert Hoffman, said of the roughly 27 therapists involved in custody proceedings that followed the Jones divorce. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Lawyers for Alex Jones described the case against him as conspiratorial. Attorney Randall Wilhite pointed out that the dozens of therapists Hoffman accused of lying were appointed by the court. They concluded that his ex-wife struggled with emotional issues that affected her parenting and needed treatment in order to earn more time with the children.
“How is it possible that every single one of them has lined up against Ms. Jones?” Wilhite asked the jury. “They have all conspired to work against her? Is that possible? It’s not possible.”
Hoffman did take a moment Thursday to remind the jury of public comments Jones has made, calling him “someone who is racist, who is bigoted, who hates women.”
But he didn’t have nearly as much evidence to make those claims as he would’ve liked. The jury saw a video of an allegedly inebriated Alex Jones saying he’d go “piss” on a tree. But the jury was not permitted to consider other behavior Kelly Jones’ lawyers wanted to raise, like an appearance in which Alex Jones made light of Trump’s famous comments about sexual assault, or Jones’ offer of $5,000 to people who would photobomb national cable TV with shirts reading “Bill Clinton is a rapist!”
“Mr. Jones is like a cult leader,” Hoffman said, accusing Jones of recruiting his own children as “foot soldiers” for his InfoWars website. “We’ve seen in our lives the horrific damage that cult leaders can do to their followers.”
Early in the trial, Jones’ team tried to argue that Jones’ on-air persona was a fictional creation, irrelevant to the trial. They compared their client to comedian Jon Stewart or radio pundit Rush Limbaugh, describing Jones’ outrageous statements as political “satire” that he doesn’t take home with him to his kids.
“I don’t want to think about work when I go home,” Alex Jones said last week on the witness stand.
Jones struggled through the entire trial to keep a straight demeanor. He rolled his eyes, smirked and shook his head as Hoffman delivered his closing argument to the jury.
Jones currently has primary custody of the children, and Kelly Jones is allowed some supervised visits.
The jury began deliberations Thursday afternoon to decide whether to reverse that arrangement by giving Kelly Jones sole custody, to give her primary custody, or to leave the situation unchanged.