By Jacqueline Thomsen
(Reuters) – The lawyer who defended conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in a Texas trial made his own national headlines this week for accidentally handing over highly sensitive data to his opponents, exposing him to potential legal repercussions.
Houston attorney Federico Andino Reynal acknowledged that Jones’ legal team had provided attorneys with a digital copy of the Infowars founder’s phone content, including text messages and medical records.
The disclosure was made public by a parent’s attorney in a dramatic conversation with Jones as the trial neared its conclusion.
The disclosure may have exposed Reynal to sanctions in another case, as well as the potential for malpractice claims by Jones, according to court documents and post-trial lawyers. Jones could sue his attorneys for malpractice but would have to prove he would have had a better outcome from the Texas trial if the phone records hadn’t been handed over, said Randy Johnston, a Dallas legal malpractice attorney.
“Any complaint he would make is essentially ‘but to my lawyers I’d be a successful liar,'” Johnston said.
Reynal told Reuters on Friday that his focus was “always on the jury and on bringing the best case for Alex.” He said the sanctions being sought against him could be a “tactical advantage” for his opponents.
Jones was not immediately available for comment. An Austin jury on Friday awarded $45.2 million in damages to the parents against Jones for falsely calling the 2012 massacre a hoax, on top of a $4.1 million verdict the day before.
An Austin judge on Thursday rejected a bid from Reynal to shield the phone records and rejected his request for a mistrial over the disclosure.
A Connecticut judge who oversaw another Sandy Hook defamation case against Jones on Thursday has ordered Reynal and another Jones attorney, Norm Pattis, to appear for hearings later this month to seek sanctions or other disciplinary action. to consider in connection with their “alleged” unauthorized release of Sandy Hook’s medical records. defeated.
Pattis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reynal’s small law firm in Houston primarily handles criminal defense cases in state and federal courts.
He successfully defended Carmen Maria Montiel, a former Miss Venezuela, against a 2013 charge of assaulting a flight attendant. A jury acquitted her in 2015.
Montiel, now a Republican candidate for Congress, said her daughter, who wants to become a lawyer, was interned with Reynal. Montiel said he “always does the best for his customers.”
Reynal also represented Cody Wilson, who ran a 3D-printed weapons company. Wilson was charged with sexual assault in 2018 and later pleaded guilty to lower charges. Wilson told Reuters on Friday that Reynal had “an impossible task” in the Jones case, but Jones represented “as best he could”.
Before starting his firm, Reynal was an assistant US attorney for the Southern District of Texas. He previously worked at law firm Baker Botts, according to his LinkedIn profile. Texas state archives do not list any public disciplinary proceedings against him.
Johnston said information about Jones’ phone relevant to the Sandy Hook claims should have been provided to plaintiffs before the trial, as part of a court-supervised process known as discovery. When Jones’ lawyers found out they had accidentally shared the phone records, they should have at least warned Jones before he sat in the stands, he said.
Johnston said the Sandy Hook parents could seek sanctions against the lawyers and possibly Jones for failing to share relevant parts of the phone records earlier, and that there may be a judicial inquiry into whether other information is inaccurate. announced.
After Friday’s verdict, plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston told Judge Maya Guerra Gamble that they would seek sanctions against Jones’ attorneys in three cases, including telling the jury that their verdict would affect the legal, protected speech of others. .
Near the end of Friday’s proceedings, Reynal told Gamble that he became aware of the phone’s accidental disclosure while Jones was testifying on Wednesday.
“That’s not true,” the judge replied, telling Reynal that he had sent her an email stating that he had been informed 12 days earlier. “That’s our position,” Reynal insisted, laughing at the judge.
(Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen in Washington; editing by David Bario, Amy Stevens and Kim Coghill)