- Infowars host Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million to parents of Sandy Hook shooting victims.
- Jones said during his defamation trial that any loss of more than $2 million would “destroy” his business.
- Legal experts told Insider that claims are common and that bankruptcy could give Jones less control over Infowars.
The finances of his channel Infowars will be put to the test after a Texas judge ruled that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay the parents of Sandy Hook shooting victims $4.1 million in libel damages.
On Thursday, a judge awarded parents much less than the $150 million they were seeking, but there could be higher punitive damages. During the trial, Jones testified that any damages in excess of $2 million would “sink” his channel — even though financial data was provided showing the channel was making close to $800,000 a day.
Jones sought bankruptcy protection last week. His company Free Speech Systems runs Infowars, file for bankruptcy On Friday, the trial was halfway through.
Legal experts told Insider that this tactic is not uncommon, but it may not protect Jones from paying full defamation damages and facing long-term consequences.
“Jones may not be able to make the judgment go away by claiming bankruptcy,” trial lawyer and former federal prosecutor Nima Rahmani told Insider. “Generally, judgments arising from intentional acts such as defamation are irrevocable in bankruptcy.”
Filing bankruptcy can protect you from debt collectors and delay the immediate collection of damages, but a lot depends on how the bankruptcy process goes. Given his high profile and propensity to lie, there is likely to be a lot of scrutiny for Jones, legal experts said.
“You have to be really broke. You can’t just say, ‘I’m broke,'” Los Angeles-based criminal attorney Joshua Ritter told Insider. “It goes through a hearing process where the judge decides your worth and, if anything, who you have to pay.”
He added: “They’re watching you too. It’s not like you can declare bankruptcy and start making millions the next day and keep it all to yourself.”
Jeff McFarlane, a Los Angeles-based trial attorney who specializes in defamation cases, told Insider that Jones might try to do so — suing his parents and possibly participating in bankruptcy proceedings.
“I’ve had cases where they filed for bankruptcy in the morning and I was supposed to make an opening statement because they were worried that their losses would exceed the value of the company, so all proceedings were put on hold,” McFarland told Insider. “The bankruptcy court is trying to find a way to keep the business going without putting people out of work – but in this particular case – if he goes bankrupt, he can start a business the next day with a different name. I mean, Alex Jones is information warfare.”
McFarland added that Jones could face a different level of anger going down this path, with his business partly owned by the parents who sued him — or dissolved.
“If a large creditor comes forward in this situation, the family or someone else may be able to take over the bankrupt business as the number one creditor,” McFarland said. “They can take the asset, the business, the name, the business and they can shut it down when they see fit – you could lose control of the business. It could be a dangerous move.”