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Alex Jones’s media company files for bankruptcy during Sandy Hook trial

Alex Jones talks to reporters during a midday break during the trial at the Travis County Courthouse in Austin on July 26. (Briana Sanchez/Austin American-Statesman/Pool/AP)

The parent company for Alex Jones’s Infowars website filed for bankruptcy, his attorney announced Friday, as parents of victims in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School are seeking $150 million in defamation damages against the right-wing conspiracy theorist who falsely claimed the massacre was a “giant hoax.”

As the first week of the civil trial in Austin concluded, Jones’s attorney, F. Andino Reynal, told the courtroom that his client’s media company, Free Speech Systems, had filed for bankruptcy but that it would not interfere with the defamation lawsuit.

While details surrounding the bankruptcy for Infowars’ parent company were not immediately available, Reynal said the filing was made so that Jones’s company could “put this part of the odyssey behind us so that we have some numbers” for potential defamation damages, according to the Associated Press.

It’s the second time in recent months that a bankruptcy filing related to Jones has come up during litigation from Sandy Hook families brought against the conspiracy theorist. Infowars and two other of Jones’s business entities filed for bankruptcy protection in April. The spring filing for bankruptcy protection delayed the start of the trial in Texas, where Infowars is headquartered.

Reynal did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Saturday. Mark Bankston, an attorney for the Texas families suing Jones, slammed the Infowars personality for having his media company file for bankruptcy during the defamation damages trial.

“The world is currently watching the final chapter of Mr. Jones’ pathetic exit from the American stage, and true to form, he will try to grab some cash on his way out,” Bankston said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We don’t intend to allow it.”

Christopher Mattei, an attorney representing some of the Sandy Hook families in Connecticut, echoed Bankston and criticized the timing of the bankruptcy filing.

“Just two days before jury selection is due to begin in Connecticut, Mr. Jones has once again fled like a coward to bankruptcy court in a transparent attempt to delay facing the families that he has spent years hurting,” Mattei said in a statement to The Post. “These families have an endless well of patience and remain determined to hold Mr. Jones accountable in a Connecticut court.”

The bankruptcy filing represents the latest financial blow to Jones after he said the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history — in which 26 people were killed in Newtown, Conn., 20 of them young children — was a “false flag” operation carried out by “crisis actors.” Although Jones has since acknowledged that the shooting took place and blamed his false claims on “a form of psychosis,” he has been banned from major platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Spotify for violating their hate-speech policies.

Judges in Connecticut and Texas have found Jones liable for damages in lawsuits stemming from his false claims. In default judgments against Jones and Infowars last October, District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Tex., ruled that Jones did not comply with court orders to give information in a pair of 2018 lawsuits brought against him by the families of two children killed in the 2012 massacre. Jones repeatedly did not hand over documents and evidence to the court supporting his damaging and erroneous claims.

Jones has been previously ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to families who have sued him. Nine families have sued him over the years.

As Sandy Hook defamation trial begins, Alex Jones might be absent

During jury selection this week, Reynal told the Austin courtroom that the founder of Infowars “has medical issues” that could keep him from showing up during parts of the trial, even though he “has no obligation to be here.” While Reynal did not specify what “medical issues” could prevent the 48-year-old from attending the trial in person, Jones has previously blamed stress and cardiovascular effects from his coronavirus infection for missing depositions in the Connecticut trial last year. Jones has also faced daily fines of $25,000 from a Connecticut judge for failing to show up for court-ordered depositions in March.

“I started getting sick after I got covid last year … like everybody else. It attacked the cardiovascular system, okay?” Jones said in an audio message posted in March. “I’m 48, and I’m under a lot of stress.”

Jurors in Austin are determining how much in compensatory and punitive damages Jones must pay the victims’ families, who are pushing for $150 million. While Jones has claimed in court filings that he has a net worth of negative $20 million, attorneys for the Sandy Hook families have pointed to records showing that Jones’s Infowars store made more than $165 million between 2015 and 2018.

The first week of the trial featured fireworks in and out of the courtroom. After Jones described the legal proceedings against him as being a “kangaroo court” in a bizarre tirade to reporters, his attorney, Reynal, found himself in a heated spat with Bankston on Wednesday. As the two argued over video evidence presented in the trial, Reynal gave Bankston the middle finger and repeatedly called him a “liar.”

Reynal apologized on Thursday.

“It wasn’t appropriate,” he said.

The trial is expected to conclude next week.