Two of Alex Jones’ attorneys, Norm Pattis and Federico Reynal, are facing disciplinary hearings in a Connecticut court over how they handled confidential medical and psychiatric records in one of the lawsuits brought by a group of Sandy Hook parents against Jones. Judge Barbara Bellis, who’s presiding over the Connecticut Sandy Hook lawsuit, said in court Wednesday that there have thus far been four disciplinary hearings involving Alex Jones’ lawyers, which she dryly noted is “unprecedented.”
In case you have been cozily ensconced in a warm, blissful place where knowledge of Jones’ legal issues does not reach you, he and Infowars lost a series of defamation cases by default in Connecticut and Texas, brought by Sandy Hook parents after he repeatedly called the massacre that killed their children a “hoax.” Last week, a Texas jury determined that Jones and Infowars should pay two of the plaintiffs, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, $49.3 million in combined compensatory and punitive damages. (Infowars’ parent company Free Speech Systems filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection mid-trial. That number will be subject to legal wrangling, probably in bankruptcy court, and will likely be reduced; Texas also places caps on punitive damages in civil cases, but it’s not yet clear whether those caps apply here.)
The biggest shock of the damages trial came when plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston revealed that Jones’ Texas defense counsel had accidentally shared an enormous amount of data with him, including what he said were many text messages from Jones’ phone and, puzzlingly, medical and psychiatric records from the Lafferty plaintiffs, the group of Sandy Hook parents suing Jones in Connecticut. (Bankston also said he would be turning over the records he has to the congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, who might also be interested in Alex Jones’ phone.) Bill Ogden, another attorney representing Heslin and Lewis, told Motherboard this week that Jones’ defense counsel sent all of the plaintiffs’ counsel a file-sharing link containing an enormous amount of data (including the phone records Bankston referenced in court).
“We started downloading it and realized it was multiple hundreds of gigs,” Ogden said.
The question was why Reynal—who is representing Jones in Texas—would even have documents from Jones’ Connecticut case, where he’s not currently appearing. Judge Bellis in Connecticut immediately ordered both Pattis and Reynal to attend hearings in her courtroom, regarding, as she wrote in her orders, “the purported release of medical records of the plaintiffs, in violation of state and federal statute and this court’s protective order, to unauthorized individuals.”
In an initial hearing for Pattis on Wednesday, Judge Bellis laid out what she currently knows about how this happened, calling the matter “very serious.” On July 6, she said, Pattis filed a motion for Reynal to appear pro hac vice in the Connecticut case, meaning he was asking that he be allowed to appear in a state where he’s not licensed to practice. In doing so, Bellis said, Pattis agreed he would “assume full responsibility” for court filings and anything else Reynal did in the case. But Reynal almost immediately was removed from the case, not for disciplinary reasons but by an agreement among the attorneys; he never made an appearance.
For that reason, Bellis said, Reynal shouldn’t necessarily have been sent the Lafferty plaintiffs’ files, and she said she was “troubled” that they might have been released to people who weren’t authorized to have them. Bellis also registered her displeasure that she heard about the document kerfuffle the way everyone else did.
“I’m gravely concerned about what I have to hear about headlines in the news,” she said. “It was never reported to me.” (That said, she added, “It may be that there were no violations and we’ll see.”)
Pattis, Bellis noted, previously faced a disciplinary hearing over an affidavit he submitted from Alex Jones that was not actually signed by Jones. (An “agent” signed it on his behalf, with an attorney present.) In that case, a statewide grievance committee determined that Pattis hadn’t meant to deceive his opposing counsel, but were still critical of his “level of diligence” in the case, and concluded that he was “sloppy” with regard to the execution of the affidavit.” The disciplinary complaint was dismissed by that committee.
Pattis has represented InfoWars and Jones in various capacities for years, but said in a recent hearing that Jones is no longer communicating with him. He’s also an aspiring stand-up comic who faced heat for deliberately using a racist slur in a routine; in the same routine, he also dropped his pants.
Both Pattis and Reynal will appear for hearings to determine whether they will be disciplined or sanctioned for their handling of the Lafferty records next week. Neither attorney immediately responded to a request for comment from Motherboard.
The post Two of Alex Jones’ Attorneys Are Facing Disciplinary Hearings for How They Handled Confidential Files appeared first on VICE.