Alex Jones ordered to sell assets to pay Sandy Hook debt – BBC News

Image caption, Alex Jones owes $1.5bn to families of victims who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012

  • Author, Mike Wendling
  • Role, BBC News

A judge ordered the liquidation of Infowars host Alex Jones’ personal assets, clearing the way for potential payouts to families of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting.

However, US Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez ruled against a liquidation of Mr Jones’ company Free Speech Systems, which owns the Infowars brand.

Relatives of the victims have won a total of $1.5bn (£1.2bn) in defamation judgements against Mr Jones and his company over his false statements about the attack.

According to recent court filings, Mr Jones has around $8.6m in personal assets.

The ruling on Friday in Houston, Texas, means that for now, Free Speech Systems and Infowars will continue to operate.

According to court filings, Free Speech Systems employs 44 people and made nearly $3.2m in revenue in one recent month, mostly from selling dietary supplements and other items.

Families of the victims were divided on whether the corporate bankruptcy should be thrown out or also changed to a liquidation procedure.

The decision does not remove Free Speech Systems’ liability, and the plaintiffs in the defamation cases will be able to pursue the damages they are owed in state courts or through further bankruptcy hearings.

“There’s no easy or right answer here,” Judge Lopez said, at times sounding deeply emotional as he delivered his decision. “I think creditors are better served in pursuing their state court rights.”

One of the attorneys for the families said they would move quickly to collect damages.

“The court authorized us to move immediately to collect against all Infowars assets, and we intend to do exactly that,” Christopher Mattei said in a statement Friday. “Alex Jones is neither a martyr nor a victim. He is the perpetrator of the worst defamation in American history.”

Following the December 2012 attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Mr Jones and guests on his broadcasts repeatedly called into question whether the massacre actually occurred, floating conspiracy theories about whether the murders were faked or carried out by government agents.

Twenty young children and six school staff were killed in the attack.

At one point Mr Jones called the attack “a giant hoax” and in 2015 he said: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured… I knew they had actors there clearly, but I thought they killed some real kids, and it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”

Mr Jones has since acknowledged that the Sandy Hook killings occurred.

Following the broadcasts, victims of the families were harassed online and in person by Infowars viewers. The families filed defamation lawsuits in Connecticut and Texas, and their legal victories resulted in Mr Jones and Free Speech Systems declaring bankruptcy.

Friday’s hearing was over whether those bankruptcy cases would be converted from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, a portion of US bankruptcy law that allows straightforward liquidation rather than more complicated financial restructuring.

On recent broadcasts and on his social media accounts, Mr Jones has continued to rail against the US justice system and claim that there is a government plot to silence him.

He has repeatedly warned that he is about to be taken off the airwaves, although US free speech laws mean he would be free to set up a new company and continue broadcasting even if his company were to be liquidated.

“We just dodged a bullet, praise Jesus,” Mr Jones said while broadcasting on Infowars after the hearing. “I would have been off the air today if the judge hadn’t done the right thing. We live to fight another day.”

During the hearing, lawyers for the families claimed that the conspiracy theorist was attempting to reduce the value of his company – for instance by urging listeners to buy products from a company owned by his father rather than directly from Infowars.

But Mr Jones’ lawyers countered by arguing that in recent weeks, the company had seen record sales.

#Alex #Jones #ordered #sell #assets #pay #Sandy #Hook #debt #BBC #News