Judge Orders Sale of Alex Jones’s Personal Assets but Keeps Infowars in Business

Judge Orders Sale of Alex Jones’s Personal Assets but Keeps Infowars in Business

A Houston bankruptcy judge on Friday ordered the personal assets of the Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to be liquidated and sold, with the proceeds distributed among the Sandy Hook families. But the judge spared Mr. Jones from having to shutter his Infowars business empire.

The ruling will allow Mr. Jones to continue broadcasting on Infowars, while the families continue to pursue payment of the enormous defamation damages awarded them.

The outcome sharply divided the Sandy Hook families. Families who sued Mr. Jones in Texas favored Friday’s decision, which will keep Mr. Jones on the air but allow them to potentially receive more in damages from the Infowars income. Families who sued Mr. Jones in Connecticut favored settling for less money and shutting Mr. Jones down, although they acknowledged he would not be silenced entirely.

Mr. Jones is appealing the judgments against him, a fight that is expected to take years.

Estimates in court filings place the value of Mr. Jones’s personal assets at less than $5 million, nowhere near the $1.4 billion that juries in Texas and Connecticut awarded the families in late 2022.

Dividing $5 million by the plaintiffs who are entitled to damages comes to less than $250,000 each, but that does not include substantial bankruptcy-related legal and administrative costs, which are paid first.

The judge’s decision came nearly a dozen years after 20 first graders and six educators died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.

Mr. Jones spent years spreading lies that the massacre was a hoax aimed at confiscating Americans’ firearms, and that the victims’ families were actors complicit in the plot. The families suffered online abuse, personal confrontations and death threats from people who believed the conspiracy theory.

“The right call is to dismiss this case,” Judge Christopher Lopez said in court on Friday afternoon, referring to his decision to dismiss the bankruptcy and keep Infowars in business. “This case is one of the more difficult cases I’ve had, but when you look at it, I think creditors are better served.”

In 2018, relatives of 10 victims sued Mr. Jones for defamation and were awarded more than $1.4 billion in damages in trials in Texas and Connecticut.

As the cases headed to court in 2022, Mr. Jones’s company declared bankruptcy. Mr. Jones declared personal bankruptcy soon after. The families who sued Mr. Jones in Connecticut and Texas agreed with the judge’s ruling that Mr. Jones’s personal assets should be liquidated, under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, and the proceeds from their sale divided among them.

Mr. Jones has been preparing for that outcome, creating an inventory of property, precious metals, guns, boats and other possessions in preparation for a sale, including getting the court’s permission to sell a 127-acre game ranch in Kingsbury, Texas, valued at $2.8 million. Mr. Jones’s lawyer, Vickie Driver, said in court that the property had been sold and the money would be transferred for distribution to the families “on Day 1.”

But the Connecticut and Texas sides divided sharply over how to go after Free Speech Systems, his company. Lawyers for the families who sued Mr. Jones in Connecticut — the families of eight victims in all — favored shutting down the company and liquidating its assets, with the money distributed among the family members.

The proceeds would be minimal, but lawyers for the Connecticut families argued that closing Infowars was more important than money.

“At the end of the day, this was all about holding Alex Jones accountable for his lies and the harm he’s done to not just Sandy Hook families but to so many other families and society,” Robbie Parker, whose daughter Emilie died in the shooting, said in comments texted to The New York Times.

Avi Moshenberg, a lawyer for the families who sued in Texas, said in his closing statement that the acrimony among lawyers that were once united against Mr. Jones surprised him.

“The standard isn’t, ‘What is the worst possible thing to do to Alex Jones to make him suffer?’ It’s what’s in the best interest of the creditors,” he said.

Mr. Jones has made a fortune promoting conspiracy theories on his broadcast while hawking diet supplements, survival gear and other merchandise. He has been stirring outrage among his listeners in recent weeks about the Connecticut lawyers’ liquidation effort, weeping and shouting about what he has falsely claimed is a government-backed conspiracy to shutter Infowars and silence him.

“I’m kind of in the bunker here — and don’t worry, I’ll come back,” he said on his Infowars show earlier this month. Mr. Jones’s lawyers said Friday that the broadcasts resulted in record sales of his products, to $1 million a week, about a 40 percent increase.

Mr. Jones has also been urging potential purchasers of his diet supplements to buy them instead from his father, whose supplements line is called Dr. Jones’ Naturals. Mr. Jones’s father has been a financial backer and business adviser to Infowars for decades. The Connecticut lawyers used these statements in court to underscore their argument that he could not be trusted to work in good faith to pay the families if left in control of his business.

Lawyers for the families agreed that regardless of the judge’s decision, Mr. Jones would eventually regroup under another business name. They could go after him for those earnings, too, because of an earlier court decision that allows the families to pursue him for the rest of his life for what they are owed.

Mr. Moshenberg said the lawyers would continue to push for a pledge from Mr. Jones that he will not lie about the shooting, mention the victims or their families again on his show, a priority for all the families.

“There’s been lots of talk of whether Jones would regain control of his business, but the reality is he never really lost it,” Judge Lopez said on Friday.

At one point in his remarks, the judge struggled to compose himself, declaring “there are no words” to describe the impact on the families of Mr. Jones’s years of defamatory lies about them. He said he regretted issuing his ruling at the start of Father’s Day weekend, “but here we are.”

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