First, from our legal desk, the good news: Alex Jones is going to be wearing a barrel very soon. From the AP (via NPR):
Judge Barbara Bellis took the rare step of defaulting Jones in the defamation lawsuits for his and his companies' “failure to produce critical material information that the plaintiffs needed to prove their claims.” The default means the judge found in favor of the parents and will hold a hearing on how much damages he should pay. Lawyers for the parents claimed Jones and his companies, including Infowars and Free Speech Systems, violated court rules by failing to turn over documents to them, including internal company documents showing how, and if, Jones and Infowars profited from talking about the school shooting and other mass shootings.
Jones took to the airwaves Monday afternoon to be incoherent in his own defense.
“These individuals, again, are not allowing me to have a jury trial because they know the things they said I supposedly did didn’t happen," he said. "They know they don’t have a case for damages. And so the judge is saying you are guilty of damages, now a jury decides how guilty you are. It’s not guilty until proven guilty.”
Except, of course, that they did.
The shooting was portrayed on Jones’ Infowars show as a hoax involving actors aimed at increasing gun control. Jones has since acknowledged the school shooting did occur. Families of the victims said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy pushed on Infowars. They sued Jones and his companies for defamation and infliction of emotional distress. The hearing on damages before a jury is expected to be held next year.
Now, the bad news. Last week, Kevin Gough, one of the lawyers defending the three men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, went full Wallace, telling the court that there had been too many “Black pastors” in attendance at the trial. This got Gough roundly ridiculed and condemned all over the country. Undaunted, on Monday, when he saw Rev. Jesse Jackson in the courtroom, Gough doubled down. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Attorney Kevin Gough then asked Judge Timothy Walmsley to remove the prominent civil rights leader from the gallery. Walmsley denied the request and called Gough’s comments “reprehensible.”
“Mr. Gough, at this point I’m not exactly sure what you’re doing,” Walmsley said, noting that he wasn’t aware Jackson had entered the courtroom until the attorney brought attention to it. “You need to understand your words in this courtroom have an impact on a lot of what’s going on.” On Monday, [Gough] renewed his complaint after Jackson took a seat at the back of the courtroom, his face mask pulled down at his chin. “In the context of this trial, we object to his presence in the public gallery inside the courtroom,” Gough said. “How many pastors does the Arbery family have? ... I don’t know who Reverend Jackson is pastoring here.”
This is the kind of thing you say, in 2021, when you’re defending a white guy who was involved in the killing of a Black guy and you’ve managed to engineer a nearly all-white jury. Of course, if this were, say, 1961, the three defendants likely never would have been charged, so clearly Dr. King’s dream has been fulfilled.
Having Black clergy inside the courtroom, Gough argued, is “no different than bringing in police officers or uniformed prison guards in a small town where a Black man has been accused of assaulting a law enforcement officer or corrections officer.” He then likened the murder trial to an NBA game. “With all due respect, your honor, the seats in the public gallery of a courtroom are not like courtside seats at a Lakers game,” he said. “There is no reason for these prominent icons in the civil rights movement to be here.”
Gough also referred to Georgia’s Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who has served as senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church since 2005. “I guess the next question is this: Which pastor is next?” he asked. Is Raphael Warnock going to be the next person appearing here this afternoon? We don’t know.”
Correction: he tripled down. And Judge Walmsley was having none of it. He pointed out to Gough that the Rev. Jackson and others were there on Monday, “directly in response, Mr. Gough, to statements you made, which I find reprehensible.” The defense’s case is undoubtedly going to be quite a horror show.
And finally, in Kenosha, closing arguments flew in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse. Prior to that, however, Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed a lesser charge against Rittenhouse regarding his possession of the AR-15 with which he killed two people and wounded a third. (Upshot: according to Wisconsin law, as explained in court, Rittenhouse’s AR-15 had a barrel that was too long to be illegal.) This deprived the prosecution of their lifeboat charge if everything else goes sour. And then, in a very Judge Bruce Schroeder moment, Judge Bruce Schroeder went completely blank for 20 seconds while giving his instructions to the jury. He said:
I got myself into a mid-sentence and I don’t like it.
I don’t know what he meant, either.
Closing arguments went as expected. The prosecution—the same DA’s office that declined to charge Officer Rusten Sheskey, who shot Jacob Blake in the back in the incident that touched off the unrest in Kenosha—walked stolidly through the evidence and even attempted to portray some of the people in the crowds as trying to protect other people from Rittenhouse, which I think is a pretty long gamble. The defense shined up Rittenhouse as an embattled good citizen who’d only come to Kenosha to wrap bandages and protect property. At the end of the proceedings, Kyle Rittenhouse appeared to be one day closer to being home.
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