AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ media company, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy on Friday, but its attorney said it should not interfere with the ongoing libel damages lawsuit. in Texas seeking to force Jones to pay $150 million or more for the family of one of the children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School attack.
The trial in Austin, where Jones lives and where Free Speech Systems is based, concluded its first week of testimony on Friday and is expected to wrap up next week. The bankruptcy filing was announced by Jones’ lawyer, Andino Reynal, at the end of the day.
Reynal and the family attorneys prosecuting Jones told Judge Maya Guerra Gamble that filing for bankruptcy would not stop the lawsuit.
The company wants to “put this part of the odyssey behind us so that we have numbers” set for the damages, Reynal said.
Details of the bankruptcy filing were not immediately available.
This isn’t the first time a bankruptcy filing has been filed amid litigation against Jones by the Sandy Hook families. In April, Jones’ Infowars company and two other of its business entities filed for bankruptcy, resulting in a postponement of the trial. Free Speech Systems is the parent company of Infowars.
Courts in Texas and Connecticut have already found Jones liable for defamation for his portrayal of the Sandy Hook massacre as a hoax involving actors aimed at increasing gun control. In both states, judges entered default judgments against Jones without a trial because he failed to respond to court orders and turn over documents.
Christopher Mattei, the Sandy Hook families’ attorney in the Connecticut case, released a statement late Friday lambasting the bankruptcy filing.
“Just two days before the start of jury selection in Connecticut, Mr. Jones has once again fled like a coward to bankruptcy court in a transparent attempt to delay the confrontation with the families he has spent years hurting,” Mattei said. “These families have endless patience and remain committed to holding Mr. Jones accountable in a Connecticut court.”
Austin lawsuit aims to determine how much Jones should pay for defaming Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis was among 20 children and six educators who were killed in the nation’s deadliest shooting . They and other Sandy Hook families suing Jones say they endured years of harassment and threats stemming from Jones’ repeated false claims that the shooting was a hoax or didn’t happen.
Jones claimed in court records last year that he had a negative net worth of $20 million, but attorneys for the Sandy Hook families painted a different financial picture.
Court records show Jones’ Infowars store, which sells nutritional supplements and survival gear, grossed more than $165 million between 2015 and 2018. Jones also urged listeners to his Infowars program to donate silver.
Associated Press writer Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut, contributed to this report.
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