HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas judge has ruled that Infowars host Alex Jones cannot use bankruptcy protection to avoid paying more than $1.1 billion 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 in the wake of juries in Texas and Connecticut punishing him over spreading falsehoods about the nation’s deadliest school shooting. U.S. District Judge Christopher Lopez of Houston issued the ruling Thursday.
Jones filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year and more recent financial documents submitted by his attorneys put his personal net worth around $14 million. But Lopez ruled that those protections do not apply over findings of “willful and malicious” conduct.
“The families are pleased with the Court’s ruling that Jones’s malicious conduct will find no safe harbor 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.”
An attorney for Jones did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.
On his Infowars website, Jones posted a video saying the judge’s ruling will have little practical effect because he is over $1 million in debt personally and has little to pay the Sandy Hook families. He also said he continues to appeal 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,” he said. “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 centerpiece of his programing on his flagship Infowars show. He has been telling his audience to donate to him and shop on the Infowars website so he can keep doing his program and pay his legal costs.
But Jones’ personal spending topped $93,000 in July alone, including thousands of dollars 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 that juries awarded them.
Sandy Hook families won nearly the $1.5 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 even larger. Another lawsuit is pending in Texas, brought by the parents of 6-year-old Noah Pozner, one of the children slain 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’ believers, who sent threats and even confronted the grieving families in person, accusing them of being “crisis actors” whose children never existed.