Parents’ bid to collect money owed by Alex Jones for Sandy Hook ‘fax’ claim has been halted

Parents’ bid to collect money owed by Alex Jones for Sandy Hook ‘fax’ claim has been halted

A federal bankruptcy judge has blocked an effort by the parents of a boy killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to begin collecting some of the $50m (£39.5m) they won in a lawsuit against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for his false claims. that the massacre was a hoax.

Lawyers for Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose six-year-old son Jesse Lewis died in 2012 in Connecticut, US, obtained an order from a Texas state judge earlier this month allowing them to begin collecting some goods from Jones. parent company of Infowars Free Speech Systems.

That order came after the company’s bankruptcy reorganization failed and its case was dismissed.

But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez in Houston said Thursday that the state judge’s decision conflicts with federal bankruptcy law.

Judge Lopez said a new trustee appointed to oversee the liquidation of Jones’ personal assets now has control of Jones’ ownership of Free Speech Systems.

Neil Heslin in cream jacket and glasses in court wiping his eyes
Neil Heslin, father of six-year-old Sandy Hook shooting victim Jesse Lewis, during his testimony at Alex Jones’ trial in August 2022 (Briana Sanchez/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

“I don’t think the state court was actually briefed on all of these issues,” Judge Lopez said.

Murray plans to shut down Infowars, the multimillion-dollar moneymaker Jones built over the past 25 years selling nutritional supplements, survival gear and other products.

Jones has about $9m (£7.1m) in personal assets, according to the latest financial court filings. Free Speech Systems has about $6 million (£4.74 million) in cash on hand and inventory worth about $1.2 million (£900,000), according to recent court testimony.

Bankruptcy attorneys for Jones and his company did not immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday. Jones said on his show Thursday that while Infowars may be gone in two to three months, it will resume its broadcasts on another platform that it will have to build from the ground up. He also said that efforts by Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin in Texas state court to obtain some of his assets were “illegal.”

Mr. Murray filed a motion Sunday asking Judge Lopez to halt Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin’s collection efforts in state court, saying they would interfere with the closing and liquidation of Jones’ company.

Free Speech Systems, based in Jones’ hometown of Austin, Texas, filed for bankruptcy reorganization in July 2022 amid the Texas lawsuit that resulted in a $50 million defamation award to Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin.

Jones filed for personal bankruptcy reorganization later in 2022 after relatives of eight children and adults killed in the shooting won the Connecticut lawsuit.

On June 14, Judge Lopez converted Jones’ personal bankruptcy reorganization case into a liquidation, meaning many of his assets will be sold to pay creditors, except for his primary home and other property exempt from liquidation. That same day, Judge Lopez also dismissed Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy case after Jones and the families could not agree on a final plan.

The bankruptcies automatically froze Sandy Hook families’ efforts to collect state lawsuit awards. Lawyers for Ms. Lewis and Heslin said the dismissal of the Free Speech System case meant they could return to Texas state court in Austin and ask a judge to order the company to begin handing over money and other assets to Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin .

“It appears this case will remain in limbo, much to Mr. Jones’s delight, while the other group of plaintiffs insist they are entitled to almost all of the recovery.”

Ms. Lewis and Mr. Heslin have been at odds with relatives in the Connecticut lawsuit over how Jones’ bankruptcies should be wound up and how his assets should be sold.

Relatives in the Connecticut lawsuit fought to dismiss Free Speech Systems from bankruptcy, saying it would lead to a “race” between the Sandy Hook families in state courts in Texas and Connecticut to see who could get Jones’ assets first.

The Connecticut plaintiffs favored the trustee’s motion to halt collection efforts in Texas.

“Connecticut families have always sought a fair and equitable distribution of Free Speech System assets for all families, and today’s decision puts us back on that path,” said Christopher Mattei, an attorney for the Sandy Hook relatives who sued trial of Jones in Connecticut. .

The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, killed 20 elementary school students and six teachers. Not all of the victims’ families have sued Jones.

Relatives said they were traumatized by Jones’ farcical conspiracies and the actions of his followers. They testified they were harassed and threatened by Jones’ loyalists, some of whom personally confronted the grieving families, saying the shooting never happened and their children never existed. A parent said someone threatened to dig up his dead son’s grave.

Jones is appealing the rulings in state courts. He said he now believes the shooting happened, but his right to free speech allowed him to say it didn’t.