Alex Jones can’t use bankruptcy protection to avoid paying Sandy Hook families

Alex Jones (Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, Pool, File)
Alex Jones (Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP, Pool, File)

A US judge has ruled that Infowars host Alex Jones cannot use bankruptcy protection to avoid paying more than 1.1 billion dollars (£906 million) to families who sued over his conspiracy theories that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a hoax.

The decision is another significant defeat for Jones after juries in Texas and Connecticut punished him over spreading falsehoods about the nation’s deadliest school shooting.

US District Judge Christopher Lopez of Houston, Texas, issued the ruling on Thursday.

Jones filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year and more recent financial documents submitted by his lawyers put his personal net worth around 14 million dollars (£11.5 million), but Judge Lopez ruled that those protections do not apply over findings of “wilful and malicious” conduct.

“The families are pleased with the court’s ruling that Jones’s malicious conduct will find no safe harbour in the bankruptcy court,” said Christopher Mattei, a Connecticut lawyer for the families.

“As a result, Jones will continue to be accountable for his actions into the future regardless of his claimed bankruptcy.”

On his Infowars website, Jones posted a video saying the judge’s ruling will have little practical effect because he is more than a million dollars in debt personally and has little to pay the Sandy Hook families. He also said he continues to appeal against the verdicts.

“It’s all academic. I don’t have a million dollars,” he said. “My company has a few million, but that’s just to pay the bills and my product in the future. So we are literally on empty. So this idea that… we’re going to take your money away doesn’t exist because the money doesn’t exist. It’s all political.

“At the end of the day, they won’t take my free speech away. I’m still going to be on the air one way or another.”

After 26 people were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, Jones made a false conspiracy theory a centrepiece of his programming on his flagship Infowars show.

The permanent Sandy Hook Memorial
The permanent Sandy Hook Memorial (Alamy/AP) (Alamy Stock Photo)

He told his audience last year he was “officially out of money” and has asked them to shop on his Infowars website to help keep him on the air.

But his personal spending topped 93,000 dollars (£76,000) in July alone, including thousands on meals and entertainment, according to his monthly financial reports in the bankruptcy case.

The spending stuck a nerve with Sandy Hook families as they have yet to collect any of the money juries awarded them.

Sandy Hook families won nearly 1.5 billion dollars (£1.2 billion) in judgments against Jones last year in lawsuits over repeated promotion of a false theory that the school shooting never happened.

The amount of money Jones owes Sandy Hook families could grow. Another lawsuit is pending in Texas, brought by the parents of six-year-old Noah Pozner, one of the children killed in the attack. A trial date has not yet been set.

Relatives of the victims testified at the trials about being harassed and threatened by Jones’s believers, who sent threats and even confronted grieving families in person, accusing them of being “crisis actors” whose children never existed.