By Jacqueline Thomson
(Reuters) – The lawyer defending conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in a trial in Texas made national headlines this week for accidentally handing over highly sensitive data to his opponents, exposing him to potential legal consequences.
Houston attorney Federico Andino Reynal acknowledged that Jones’ legal team provided attorneys for the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting with a digital copy of the contents of the Infowars founder’s phone, which included text messages and medical records.
The disclosure was made public by an attorney for the parents in a dramatic exchange with Jones as the trial drew to a close. [nL1N2ZG1XS]
The revelation may have exposed Reynal to penalties in another case, as well as potential malpractice claims from Jones, according to court documents and post-trial attorneys. Jones could sue his lawyers for malpractice, but would have to prove he would have gotten a better result from the lawsuit in Texas if the phone information hadn’t been handed over, said Dallas malpractice attorney Randy Johnston. .
“Any complaint he would make is, essentially, ‘without my lawyers, I would have been a successful liar,'” Johnston said.
Reynal told Reuters on Friday that his focus was “always on the jury and making the best case for Alex.” He said the sanctions sought against him could be a “tactical advantage” from his opponents.
Jones could not immediately be reached for comment. An Austin jury on Friday awarded the parents $45.2 million in punitive damages against Jones for falsely characterizing the 2012 massacre as a hoax, in addition to a compensatory damages verdict of 4, $1 million the day before.
An Austin judge on Thursday rejected an offer by Reynal to shield the phone records and denied his request for a mistrial over the disclosure.
A Connecticut state judge overseeing another Sandy Hook defamation case against Jones on Thursday ordered Reynal and another Jones lawyer, Norm Pattis, to appear later this month for hearings to to consider penalties or other disciplinary action regarding their “alleged” unauthorized release of the Sandy Hook plaintiffs’ medical records. recordings.
Pattis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reynal’s small Houston law firm primarily handles criminal defense cases in state and federal courts.
He successfully defended Carmen Maria Montiel, a former Miss Venezuela, against a 2013 assault charge against a flight attendant. A jury acquitted her in 2015.
Montiel, now a Republican candidate for Congress, said her daughter, who wants to be a lawyer, was interned at Reynal. Montiel said he “always does his best for his clients.”
Reynal also represented Cody Wilson, who ran a 3D-printed gun business. Wilson was charged with sexual assault in 2018 and later pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Wilson told Reuters on Friday that Reynal had “an impossible task” in the Jones case but represented Jones “as best he could.”
Prior to establishing his firm, Reynal served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. Previously, he practiced at the law firm Baker Botts, according to his LinkedIn profile. Texas State Bar records do not mention any public disciplinary proceedings against him.
Johnston said the information on Jones’ phone regarding Sandy Hook’s claims should have been provided to the plaintiffs before trial, in a court-controlled process known as discovery. Once Jones’ attorneys discovered they had accidentally shared the phone records, they should have at least tipped Jones off before he took the stand, he said.
Johnston said Sandy Hook’s parents could seek sanctions against lawyers and possibly Jones for not sharing relevant parts of the phone data sooner, and there could be a legal inquiry into whether further information were not properly disclosed.
After Friday’s verdict, plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston told Judge Maya Guerra Gamble they would seek sanctions against Jones’ attorneys on three issues, including telling the jury their verdict would affect legal discourse. and protected others.
Toward the end of Friday’s proceedings, Reynal told Gamble that he inadvertently learned of the disclosure over the phone while Jones was testifying on Wednesday.
“That’s not true,” the judge replied, telling Reynal he had given him an email showing he knew about it 12 days earlier. “That’s our position,” Reynal persisted, making the judge laugh.
(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington; Editing by David Bario, Amy Stevens and Kim Coghill)