Last week, a Connecticut jury ruled that Alex Jones and his Infowars media company must pay nearly $1 billion in damages to the families of the Sandy Hook victims — punishment for lying, over and over, about the 2012 mass shooting.
“Their mission is to shut me up and take me off the air,” Jones told his followers via video after the verdict.
That’s not going to happen in the near future. And it’s possible it may never happen.
In recent days, Jones has interviewed Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone, who suggested that Donald Trump should add Kanye West to his 2024 presidential ticket; he’s called the Anti-Defamation League “the closest thing to a Nazi organization that America has”; and he has continued to rail against Covid-19 vaccines, which he says are a plot engineered by “transhumanist globalists.”
In between his rants, Jones encourages his audience to support him by buying supplements like Brain Force Plus, which he promises will “supercharge your state of mind” and is on sale for $20 for a bottle of 36 tablets.
Jones claims that he won’t have to pay anything because he’ll win this case, and a similar one he has lost in Texas, in appeals court, which could take years. Bankruptcy experts I’ve talked to told me this isn’t true — that the families who’ve won the judgment can immediately pursue their claims against Jones by trying to seize Jones’s personal property without waiting for the appeals process.
But Free Speech Systems LLC, which runs Jones’s Infowars site — an operation that Jones says has 80 employees and reaches millions of people — will be shielded from any judgments for months or years, courtesy of US bankruptcy law.
Free Speech Systems filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July, and that means that the families of the Sandy Hook victims won’t be able to receive any cash from the company until its bankruptcy reorganization is complete. Meanwhile, Jones can run the company the way he always has and is free to use the verdict as a promotional tool, urging his followers to buy his powders and extracts to help him fight the “new world order.” He’s currently running a “1776 Super Sale” promotion.
“If Infowars chooses to continue to operate, it is within its power to do so, at least in the near term,” says Chris Mattei, an attorney for the victims. (A rep for Jones’s attorney Norm Pattis declined to field an interview request: “He doesn’t want to talk to anybody right now. He’s very, very, very busy and he feels like he has nothing else to say.”)
Jones hasn’t filed for personal bankruptcy, which experts tell me wouldn’t allow him to escape the judgments filed against him anyway. But it gets fuzzier when it comes to Free Speech Systems: Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection is designed to let the company that files it stay alive while it negotiates deals with its creditors, and then to keep operating after it emerges from Chapter 11.
Which means the Sandy Hook families, who are now creditors for both Jones and Free Speech Systems, could find themselves in a very odd position: Trying to get their hands on all of Jones’s personal assets while also working within a legal system that is designed to keep Free Speech Systems and Infowars — which only really works if Jones works there — up and running.
It will take some time before we get there, no matter what happens. For starters, there’s another judgment coming in the same Connecticut case that will add to Jones’s total bill. And the state of Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy proceedings is already contentious — a federal bankruptcy judge in Houston has chided Free Speech for a “lack of candor” in the proceedings and has brought in new help to wrangle that case.
And it’s very unlikely that Jones will ever pay anything close to $1 billion to the Sandy Hook families. While Jones has made a lot of money peddling supplements, a forensic economist has estimated his total net worth was between $135 million and $270 million.
I asked Mattei if he and his clients actually do want Alex Jones to stop speaking on Infowars or anywhere else. He paused. “I think it is in our clients’ interest that Free Speech Systems not continue to make money by lying,” he said.
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