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Judge rules Alex Jones can’t use bankruptcy protection to avoid paying Sandy Hook families

Alex Jones in court proceedings, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.
Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media
Alex Jones in court proceedings, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

A Houston judge announced Thursday that InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones will have to pay families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting nearly the full $1.4 billion they filed in damages. And he won’t be able to use his bankruptcy filings to avoid paying the amount.

Cases in Texas and Connecticut decided last year awarded families almost full damages. In Connecticut, the families’ lawyers argued that Jones acted with “willful and malicious intent” when spreading lies about the shooting. And in bankruptcy law, debt that’s created because of actions deemed willful and malicious aren’t protected by the courts.

Jones will likely need to pay the full amount regardless of his options to liquidate InfoWars — otherwise, he could have forced families to accept the resulting proceedings and started a new business.

The Texas case was won by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse Lewis died in the shooting. But on Thursday the judge decided a trial would be necessary to determine whether $44 million in punitive damages meets the “willful and malicious” standard.

Jones’ lawyers had argued that his target was “the deep state,” not the families, and that Jones was raising questions about the official narrative of a national tragedy, as he has for other events. So while he was “reckless,” his lawyer Chris Davis said, “the idea that he had a willful and malicious intent is in substantial and factual dispute,” and needed to be adjudicated separately in court.

A final damages trial awaits Jones after the bankruptcy case is finalized, filed by Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner as part of a separate defamation suit. They are the parents of Noah Pozner, a 6-year-old who died in the attack.

Eda Uzunlar is WSHU's Poynter Fellow for Media and Journalism.