Site’s founder, Alex Jones, was found liable for damages in three lawsuits related to lies he spread about 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting
Facing multiple defamation lawsuits, the far-right website InfoWars on Sunday voluntarily filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in federal court in Texas.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy procedures put a hold on all civil litigation faced by companies that file for the protection and allows them to prepare turnaround plans while remaining operational.
Alex Jones, founder of InfoWars, was found liable for damages in three lawsuits last year filed after he falsely claimed the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting was a hoax.
Jones claimed the shooting at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six employees were killed, was fabricated by gun-control advocates and mainstream media. He accused several families of victims of being paid actors trying to promote gun restrictions.
Jones has spent the last four years fighting defamation lawsuits in Connecticut and Texas related to Sandy Hook conspiracy theories.
In 2019, a Texas judge ordered Jones to pay $100,000 in a defamation suit. In November 2021, another judge in Connecticut found Jones liable for damages in a suit brought by 13 plaintiffs who are relatives of the shooting’s victims.
The judge in Connecticut said Jones and his companies, including InfoWars and Free Speech Systems, failed to turn over documents for the trial such as internal records that show whether Jones and his companies profited from talking about Sandy Hook and other mass shootings.
In the Connecticut case, Jones is set to go to trial this year in front of a jury which will decide how much he owes plaintiffs.
Jones’s lawyers have questioned whether the judge who made the ruling in Connecticut, Barbara Bellis, has been impartial. In November, Jones lamented on his radio show that he was unable to argue his case in front of a jury.
“They know the things they said I supposedly did didn’t happen,” he said. “They know they don’t have a case for damages. And so the judge is saying you are guilty of damages, now a jury decides how guilty you are. It’s not guilty until proven guilty.”
In late March, Jones offered to pay each plaintiff $120,000 to resolve the lawsuit. Court filings said: “Mr Jones extends his heartfelt apology for any distress his remarks caused.”
The families rejected the offer, saying that it was a “transparent and desperate attempt by Alex Jones to escape a public reckoning under oath with his deceitful, profit-driven campaign against the plaintiffs and the memory of their loved ones lost at Sandy Hook”.
The families targeted by Jones say his conspiracy theories have led to death threats and harassment from Jones’s followers.
One father, Lenny Pozner, whose six-year-old son was killed in the attack, said his family became a specific target of Jones’s conspiracy theories and has had to move multiple times in response to threats from his followers. A woman in Florida who sent Pozner death threats was sentenced to five months in prison in 2017.
Pozner, who told PBS he lives in hiding, said that he was glad he and other Sandy Hook families took Jones to court over his conspiracy theories.
“That was what needed to be done. I’m proud of bringing the lawsuit, [it] brought a lot more attention to who he really is and what his show represents,” he said.
According to Sunday’s bankruptcy filing, in the US bankruptcy court for the southern district of Texas, InfoWars listed its estimated assets in the range of $0-$50,000 and estimated liabilities in the range of $1m to $10m.
On Sunday, Jones said on his InfoWars show he was considering bankruptcy and asked his listeners for financial help to stay on the air.
“We’re maxed out and I don’t want to lay off our employees,” he said.
Jones, a vocal supporter of Donald Trump
, was previously subpoenaed by the House of Representatives committee investigating the January 2021 attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters.
Neil Heslin, whose six-year-old son, Jesse Lewis, died in the Newtown shooting, said of the InfoWars bankruptcy: “It is what it is. We’ll see where it all goes. He’s tried everything to avoid everything.”