Alex Jones files for bankruptcy, halting post-trial activity by Sandy Hook families
Hartford — Infowars broadcaster and right-wing provocateur Alex Jones filed for personal bankruptcy in Texas on Friday morning, creating a new obstacle for the relatives of Sandy Hook shooting victims trying to collect the nearly $1.5 billion they won in a suit against the conspiracy theorist for his claims that the school massacre was a hoax.
The voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition stops, at least temporarily, all post-trial activity in Superior Court by Jones and the 15 people who sued him in Connecticut, notably efforts by the families to collect and stop Jones from hiding assets, and his attempts to reverse the verdict or reduce the damages award. Efforts to collect now shift to bankruptcy court, which will identify Jones’ assets and decide on how they are distributed.
In the filing, Jones says he has anywhere from $1 million to $10 million in assets and says the Sandy Hook relatives who won massive defamation verdicts against him in Texas and Connecticut are his largest unsecured creditors. Jones previously put his business into bankruptcy.
Lawyers for relatives, who persuaded juries that Jones’ Sandy Hook denial broadcasts made them targets for a decade of threats and abuse, called the bankruptcy filing a ploy to avoid, or at least postpone payment of what he owes.
“Like every other cowardly move Alex Jones has made, this bankruptcy will not work,” said Christopher Mattei, one of the lawyers representing the families. “The bankruptcy system does not protect anyone who engages in intentional and egregious attacks on others, as Mr. Jones did. The American judicial system will hold Alex Jones accountable, and we will never stop working to enforce the jury’s verdict.”
Bankruptcy experts predicted Jones will use the filing in an effort to protect whatever assets he can. But they said it is also an acknowledgment by Jones that he owes far more than he can pay and whatever he has is now under the control of the court,
“From Alex Jones' perspective, it’s one more thing to fling at the wheels of justice that are turning towards him,” said University of Connecticut law professor Minor Meyers. “I’m not sure at the end of the day it affects the dollars that change hands. I’m sure what he says is the value of his estate is carefully curated to exclude things he would like to keep his paws on. That’s what people do when bankruptcy approaches.”
“How do you divide up what is there?” Meyers said. “That will now be for the bankruptcy court to decide. Not for Alex Jones.”
Argument over several post-trial questions pending in Connecticut ended immediately with the Texas filing.
In Superior Court in Waterbury on Friday morning, hours after the bankruptcy filing, Judge Barbara Bellis, who presided over the Connecticut trial, postponed a previously scheduled hearing on a motion by the relatives to attach assets the families said Jones is dissipating or hiding and forcing him to transfer the assets to Connecticut. The families have contended for months, in the Connecticut and Texas courts, that Jones began concealing millions of dollars in assets when they sued him.
“Here, there is very substantial evidence that Mr. Jones has taken — and is continuing to take — actions to dissipate, transfer, hide or otherwise shield his assets from a judgment for the plaintiffs in this case,” the families said in a Superior Court filing a day earlier.
“Meanwhile, as the verdict in this case was read, Mr. Jones stated his intent not to pay the judgment on his show, calling it ‘a joke’ and urging his audience to ‘flood (him) with donations,’ saying: ‘Do these people actually think they’re getting any of this money?’” the filing said.
“This evidence shows that Mr. Jones is actively hiding, shielding, transferring, dissipating his assets or otherwise acting to render himself judgment-proof against the plaintiffs. If he is allowed to continue, there is far more than ‘a substantial probability’ that the plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm, and that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit, verdict and prejudgment remedy will prove ‘fruitless,’” the filing said.
In his bankruptcy petition, Jones claims he owes from $1 billion to $10 billion to as many as 100 creditors and that the Sandy Hook relatives who sued him are the largest.
The remarkable $1.4 billion the families are trying to collect in the Connecticut defamation case consists of a $965 million jury award of compensatory damages on Oct. 12 and another $473 million in punitive damages for intentionally malicious behavior awarded by Bellis a month later on Nov. 10.
Fifteen people sued Jones in Connecticut — 14 relatives of nine Sandy Hook shooting victims and an FBI agent who was among the first responders — claiming their lives have been destroyed by a decade of threats, harassment and abuse from complete strangers who agree with Jones’ assertions that the elementary school massacre was a hoax concocted by a sinister cabal of globalists trying to outlaw gun ownership.
The parents of one of the murdered children who sued Jones separately, on the same grounds, in a Texas court won a $50 million verdict against him in August and another is pending.
Jones, who has since stopped broadcasting the hoax claims and apologized to the families, had told his global audience of millions that the parents, the murdered children and the first responders were actors.
Those suing Jones, in addition to the FBI agent, are the parents, spouses and siblings of the 20 first graders and six educators murdered on Dec. 14, 2012 when a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown with an assault rifle. Within hours of the murders, as relatives came to grips with their losses, Jones began what would become years of bombastic broadcasts to an audience of millions claiming that the relatives were actors in a phony production staged to win support for gun control.
Parents of the murdered children testified that, as a result Jones’ broadcasts, threats began so quickly and grew so serious that, within days, authorities were taking security measures to protect mourners at their children’s’ funerals. Lawyers for the families presented the jury with evidence that the harassment continued through the trial.
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