Alex Jones’ company Infowars has filed for bankruptcy protection after the conspiracy theorist lost defamation lawsuits over his comments that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a hoax.
Mr Jones filed for Chapter 11 protection in Texas and told his listeners yesterday he was “totally maxed out” financially.
He urged his audience to contribute money or buy products off his Infowars website.
Attorneys for Sandy Hook families have accused Jones of trying to hide millions of dollars in assets as juries later this year are set to determine how much he should pay in damages.
Infowars told the bankruptcy court it had estimated assets of $67,800 (US$50,000) or less and estimated liabilities of $1.3 million (US$1 million) to $13.5 million (US$10 million).
Creditors listed in the filing include relatives of some of the 20 children and six educators killed in the 2012 school massacre in Connecticut.
Two other companies with ties to Mr Jones, Prison Planet TV and IW Health, also filed for bankruptcy.
An attorney for Mr Jones did not return messages seeking comment but he has addressed the bankruptcy in recent days on his show. He has been banned from major social media platforms for hate speech and abusive behaviour.
“We have less than US$3 million cash and we need that money to buy future product to be able to operate,” Mr Jones said.
What is Alex Jones facing?
Jury selection had been set to begin next week in Austin in a trial to determine how much Mr Jones should pay the families of Sandy Hook victims. He faces similar trials in Connecticut later this year.
The plaintiffs in those cases have said they were subjected to harassment and death threats from Mr Jones’ followers because he promoted the hoax conspiracy that crisis actors faked the shooting in an effort by the federal government to take away guns and restrict firearms.
Mr Jones has since conceded that the shooting did happen.
“Alex Jones is just delaying the inevitable: a public trial in which he will be held accountable for his profit-driven campaign of lies against the Sandy Hook families who have brought this lawsuit,” said Christopher Mattei, who represents the families in a Connecticut lawsuit against Mr Jones.
Neil Heslin, whose six-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, died in the Newtown school shooting, said he did not immediately know how the bankruptcy would affect his defamation lawsuit against Mr Jones in Texas.
“It is what it is,” Mr Heslin said. “We’ll see where it all goes. He’s tried everything to avoid everything.”
What are Jones’ finances?
A separate lawsuit earlier this month accused Mr Jones of hiding millions of dollars in assets. An attorney for Mr Jones has called the allegation “ridiculous.”
Last month, Jones was fined $100,000 (US$75,000) for failing to appear for a deposition in a defamation case but a judge last week ordered the return of the money because Mr Jones eventually showed up.
The bankruptcy court filings claim that Mr Jones has paid $13.5 million (US$10 million) in legal fees. He claimed in court records last year that he had a negative net worth of $27 million (US$20 million), but attorneys for Sandy Hook families have painted a different financial picture.
Court records show that Mr Jones’ Infowars store, which sells nutritional supplements and survival gear, made more than $224 million (US$165 million) between 2015 and 2018.
“He’s going to come under far more scrutiny under a bankruptcy court than in state court,” said Sid Scheinberg, a bankruptcy attorney with Godwin Bowman in Dallas, which is not involved in the Jones case.
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What affect will this have on the Sandy Hook Cases?
Filing for Chapter 11 puts civil litigation on hold while the business reorganises its finances.
It is not the first time a bankruptcy filing has affected a lawsuit filed by the Sandy Hook families. While suing gun maker Remington, which manufactured the AR-15-style rifle used in the school shooting, the company filed for bankruptcy twice. In the second case filed in 2020, Remington’s assets were eventually sold off to other companies.
The 2020 bankruptcy delayed proceedings for a year in the Connecticut lawsuit, which sought damages against Remington for how it marketed its rifles. In February, the families of nine victims of the school shooting announced they had agreed to settle the case for $98 million (US$73 million).