The judge in a Sandy Hook defamation lawsuit against far-right conspiracy podcaster Alex Jones has launched an investigation of his legal team after the medical records of school parents were leaked.
Medical and psychiatric records of some parents and relatives of the children killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, were apparently included among a massive document dump including Jones’ cellphone texts. The information was apparently inadvertently leaked by his lawyers to various parties, according to a remote Connecticut court hearing Wednesday.
It’s unclear how the private medical records were obtained.
“It appears that the medical and or psychiatric records of the plaintiffs in the underlying lawsuits were recently provided to unauthorized individuals” by one of Jones’ attorneys, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis said at a hearing from her Waterbury courtroom on Wednesday, The Hartford Courant reported.
“I am very concerned that there was improper release of highly confidential psychiatric, psychological or counseling records protected by court order and state and federal law,” she added.
Bellis complained that she’s hearing more about the case on the news than in her courtroom. “I am clearly gravely concerned about what I have to hear in headlines,” Bellis said.
The judge said she’s holding a hearing next week to determine if Jones’ Connecticut lawyer Norm Pattis played a role in leaking the records. She’ll hold a hearing the following week examining the actions of Jones’ Texas lawyer F. Andino Reynal.
It appeared at the hearing that Pattis’ office transmitted confidential records to Reynal last month when Reynal was expected to play a role in defending Jones in the Connecticut lawsuit, according to the Courant.
Reynal withdrew from the Connecticut case days later. Yet it appears from information from a Texas court last week that Reynal’s Texas legal team inadvertently transferred the contents of Jones’ mobile phone and other records to the Sandy Hook relatives suing in Texas, the Courant reported. That’s when the medical records were spotted, according to the newspaper.
Mark Bankston, an attorney for the families suing Jones in Texas, told reporters last week that Reynal mistakenly shared the medical and cellphone records with him as part of what appeared to be an effort to disclose records relevant to Jones’ then-looming trial in Austin, according to CT Insider.
Jones has lost three defamation lawsuits — one in Connecticut and two in Texas, where his Infowars podcast is based — after falsely insisting on Infowars that the 21 first-grade children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary were actors. The shooting, he claimed, was actually an anti-gun hoax. His wild claims triggered harassment and death threats against the families by Jones’ followers.
A Texas jury last week awarded a total of more than $49 million in damages against Jones in the first suit. Damages in the other suits must still be determined.
Early this month Jones signed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection petition to shield assets of his Infowars podcast parent company, Free Speech Systems LLC, his co-defendant in two of the defamation cases. Infowars reportedly raked in $65 million in revenue last year.
Critics have blasted the bankruptcy move as a cynical strategy to dodge accountability.
Jones, Pattis and Reynal could not immediately be reached for comment.