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Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones agrees to liquidate assets to pay Sandy Hook families

Infowars founder Alex Jones speaks to the media outside Waterbury Superior Court during his trial in September 2022 in Waterbury, Conn.
Joe Buglewicz
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Infowars founder Alex Jones speaks to the media outside Waterbury Superior Court during his trial in September 2022 in Waterbury, Conn.

Alex Jones, who spread lies about the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that killed 26 first-graders and staffers, has dropped efforts to declare bankruptcy and agreed to liquidate his assets in order to finally start paying the nearly $1.5 billion in damages he owes the victims' families.

The relatives of the Sandy Hook victims won their defamation suits against Jones in 2021. But they have yet to see a penny since Jones and his media company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2022.

Chris Mattei, an attorney representing some of the Sandy Hook families, said Jones is on the "brink of justice" and the victims' relatives are determined to keep him accountable.

"The Connecticut families have fought for years to hold him responsible no matter the cost and at great personal peril. Their steadfast focus on meaningful accountability, and not just money, is what has now brought him to the brink of justice in the way that matters most," Mattei said in a statement.

That might change now that Jones requested to convert his bankruptcy into a liquidation. The request comes after the victims' families had asked a bankruptcy judge in Texas to liquidate Jones' media empire and Infowars parent company, Free Speech Systems.

Liquidating will not be nearly enough to cover the amount owed to the families, but it will likely force Jones to forgo ownership of his alt-right outlet, Infowars, where he spewed false conspiracy theories for 25 years.

Jones lied on Infowars that the shooting in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 first graders — 6- and 7-year-olds — and six teachers, never took place. In lawsuits filed against Jones, the victims' families said they were harassed and tormented by Jones' listeners as a result of his lies.

Since then, Jones testified in a Texas courtroom that he now understands it was irresponsible of him to say the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax and that he now believes it was "100% real."

Following the defamation suits, both Jones and Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy. In Jones' bankruptcy petition, he said he had between $1 million and $10 million in assets and between $1 billion and $10 billion in liabilities.

In 2023, Jones attempted to settle with the victims' families by offering a a minimum settlement of $5.5 million a year for 10 years, with more possible depending on Jones' income. The families filed a counterproposal, which requested liquidating nearly all of Jones' assets, including those related to his media company Infowars. The two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

On Sunday, the victims' families filed an emergency motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston, asking the court to liquidate Free Speech Systems. The bankruptcy judge is scheduled make a decision on June 14.

Over the weekend during a taping of Infowars, Jones got emotional — alternating between anger and despair — while discussing losing his show and company.

"I'm not trying to be dramatic here but it's been a hard fight," he said.

NPR's Tovia Smith contributed reporting.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.