In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview, one of the attorneys for Sandy Hook parents spoke with Law&Crime Network host Jesse Weber to provide insight and details on his high-profile defamation case victory against Infowars and Alex Jones.
Houston native Mark Bankston, of Farrar and Ball, LLP, attained a certain measure of national fame earlier this month when he revealed that Jones’ legal team inadvertently disclosed some 2.3 gigabytes of cell phone data to the people who have been suing him for nearly a decade. This revelation occurred right in the middle of a cross-examination that prompted the prominent conspiracy theorist to brand the surprise Bankston’s “Perry Mason moment.”
On Thursday, the attorney shared a personal connection with the case over which, he said, he and his clients bonded.
“My son, who is now eight years old, was born on the same birthday as Noah Pozner,” Bankston said, referring to the youngest Sandy Hook victim. “And, in fact, my son’s first birthday, the day he was born, was the first birthday that Noah wasn’t around.”
When he first took the case, the attorney said, it was about going after Jones and solving what he referred to as “a mayhem agent in society.” But as the case wore on, Bankston said, “it became more about these plaintiffs” and “these families and what they’ve gone through.”
“Nobody buys into this lie anymore,” the attorney told Weber in reference to the pernicious conspiracy that the massacre was faked by the Obama administration. “We’ve stamped it out.”
Jones, for his part, admitted during the trial that the shooting was “100 percent real.”
On two days in early August, the years of work came to a head with verdicts and substantial judgments against Jones. On the first day, jurors determined the conspiracy theorist was liable to the tune of $4.1 million; on the next day, an additional $45.2 million in punitive damages was assessed against him for the harm caused by his claim, since retracted, that the school shooting was a “giant hoax.”
As Law&Crime previously reported, Jones’ lawyer Andino Reynal signaled plans to reduce the size of the penalty under Texas law to less than $1 million, prompting a sarcastic rejoinder from Travis County Judge Maya Guerra Gamble about conservative tort reform efforts that work to limit civil lawsuit damages.
Bankston remarked upon a tense conversation between himself and Reynal (the last of 10 attorneys Jones went through during the course of the years-long litigation) in response to a question about their already-well-known public feud, a relationship Weber described as “hostile” and “volatile.”
“Andino came to me in that March hearing and outside the courthouse came up to me and taunted me,” the victims’ attorney replied. “And said ‘You’re never going to get a dollar for these parents, you’re gonna have to do a bunch of work, we’re about to make your life hell.’ And what he was hinting at was that bankruptcy stunt back in April that delayed this trial.”
Bankston went on to note that Jones’ bankruptcy gambit fell demonstrably short as a delaying tactic and that the defamation trial was back on track within weeks of the bankruptcy filing.
“It was a silly threat to make,” he said.
As for threats, Bankston would note at one point in the interview, the Sandy Hook victims’ team, as well as Judge Gamble, received plenty of them.
“Both I and my judge got a small taste of what my clients have experienced for the past 10 years,” he said. “There were people threatening to kill us. There were people who have sent child pornography – child sexual abuse images – to both me and my judge. It is really strange that people are coming out of the woodwork.”
But, Bankston noted, the abuse didn’t just come from fans of Jones. At one point, after winning a series of arguments, the attorney was given a middle finger salute from Andino. That was first time, he said, he had ever received such treatment from opposing counsel in his entire career.
While the professional victory was satisfying, Bankston said, the real victory and the real satisfaction came from vindicating his clients.
“They’re doing great,” Bankston said of his clients, bereaved parents Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son 6-year-old Jesse Lewis was murdered on Dec. 14, 2012. “They feel like they’ve come out of a tunnel. They feel like they see light again.”
[image via screengrab/Law&Crime Network/YouTube]
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