Top NewsAlex Jones ordered the property sold to pay Sandy...

Alex Jones ordered the property sold to pay Sandy Hook’s debt

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image caption, Alex Jones owes $1.5 billion to the families of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

  • author, Mike Wendling
  • stock, BBC News

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

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

Relatives of victims have won defamation judgments totaling $1.5bn (£1.2bn) against Mr Jones and his company over false reports about the attack.

Mr Jones owns about $8.6 million in personal assets, according to recent court filings.

Friday’s ruling 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 generated nearly $3.2 million in revenue in a recent month, mostly through the sale of food and other products.

Victims’ families were divided over whether to throw out corporate bankruptcy or move to liquidation proceedings.

The decision does not eliminate the liability of free speech organizations, and plaintiffs in defamation cases can pursue damages owed to them in state courts or through further bankruptcy proceedings.

“There is no easy or right answer here,” said Judge Lopez, who at times became deeply emotional as he delivered his decision. “I think creditors are doing a better job of following their state court rights.”

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

Following the December 2012 attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Mr. Jones and his on-air guests repeatedly questioned whether the massacres were real, floating conspiracy theories about whether the killings were faked or carried out by government agents.

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

At one point Mr Jones called the attack “a colossal hoax”, and in 2015 he said: “Sandy Hook was an artificial, completely bogus cast, in my view, produced … I knew they had actors there, but I knew they were killed. I thought. Some of the real kids, it shows how brave they are, and they clearly used actors.”

Mr Jones admitted to the Sandy Hook murders.

Following the broadcast, the affected families were harassed online and in person by Infoverse viewers. The families filed defamation lawsuits in Connecticut and Texas, and their legal victories forced Mr. Jones and Free Speech Systems to declare bankruptcy.

Friday’s hearing was about whether bankruptcy cases could be converted from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7, the part of the U.S. bankruptcy code that allows for straightforward liquidations rather than more complex financial restructuring.

He has repeatedly warned that he will be taken off the airwaves, even though US free-speech laws dictate that even if his company dissolves, he will be free to found a new company and continue broadcasting.

“We dodged a bullet and praise Jesus,” Mr Jones said in a broadcast on Infowars after the trial. “If the judge hadn’t done the right thing I would have been on air today. We live to fight another day.

During the trial, attorneys for the families said the conspiracy theorist was trying to devalue his company — for example, by persuading listeners to buy products from a company owned by his father, rather than directly from Infowars.

But lawyers for Mr Jones have argued in recent weeks that the company has seen record sales.

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