Although Jones held up a photo of a person who had no connection to the Stone trial, legal experts maintained the effect was the same as if the person had been a juror.
Jury tampering is an intentional effort to sway a juror’s opinion or decision in a case by communicating with him or her either directly or indirectly through an improper channel, outside of legal arguments and evidence presented in court.
It doesn’t matter whether he revealed the right or wrong name or image, according to Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. His actions were not about a particular juror, but rather they were aimed at intimidating the others on the jury, she said.
“It’s really about protecting the integrity of the process. Jurors must be impartial, and judges work to ensure that,” she said.
Rocah said Jones was sending a message: “You’re going to face the wrath of Alex Jones and his extremist following,” urging them to harass any juror who convicts his friend of lying to investigators, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
She continued, concluding Jones had crossed into criminal territory: “If I were a juror, I might be intimidated by it.”
Federal prosecutors infrequently file jury tampering charges. To successfully prosecute one, the U.S. attorney would have to prove that the purpose of the communication was to influence the jurors’ opinions and that they heard it.
In every criminal case, jurors are concerned about physical safety and being pulled into the public spotlight, Harry Sandick, a partner at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler and former federal prosecutor, told The Washington Post; he called a threat to publicize a jurors’ name “destructive to the process.”
Here, though, he said it would be a stretch for the Justice Department to pursue charges against Jones.
Jackson could issue a warning against Stone — though she was unsuccessful in controlling his public commentary about the case even after issuing a gag order. But Jones is not a part of the proceeding and has a constitutional right to speak about the trial and even criticize Jackson, whom he has called “a fraud.”
“Jones is probably not what the authors of the First Amendment had in mind, but he’s still protected by it,” Sandick said.
Jones told his Infowars audience that he was “going to release [the name] because that’s what the press does.” Because he couched the conduct in his job as a reporter, Sandick said, Jones may have a “colorable” defense.
He continued: “It’s deplorable, but it would be hard to prove his specific intent was to influence the court proceeding. Jones has this quasi-media platform and framed it as, ‘This is what the press does.’ ”