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Alex Jones trustee files emergency request as Sandy Hook families battle over assets

Infowars host Alex Jones addresses the conservative Turning Point People's Convention earlier this month at Huntington Place in Detroit.
Jeff Kowalsky
/
AFP via Getty Images
Infowars host Alex Jones addresses the conservative Turning Point People's Convention earlier this month at Huntington Place in Detroit.

Updated June 25, 2024 at 13:26 PM ET

A court-appointed bankruptcy trustee for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has filed an emergency motion asking a court to settle a dispute among Sandy Hook families over what should happen to the company that runs Jones’ Infowars show.

The families won nearly $1.5 billion in damages in two separate defamation suits against Jones for spreading lies that the 2012 school shooting never happened. The majority of the families are accusing one set of parents of attempting a “money grab” that would get them “outsized recoveries,” possibly leaving the rest of the families with little to nothing.

The dispute follows a federal bankruptcy judge’s decision earlier this month to liquidate Jones’ personal assets — and dismiss the bankruptcy protection for his company, Free Speech Systems.

The one set of parents quickly filed papers in Texas state court to collect their damages from Free Speech Systems, arguing that they are well within their rights to try to recover whatever they can. But the trustee in Jones’ personal bankruptcy immediately asked the bankruptcy court to stop them. He says it’s within his purview to control Jones’ ownership stake in Free Speech Systems and maximize its value to pay the families. The trustee and the other families say an orderly shutdown and sale of Free Speech Systems would result in more money overall and a more equitable distribution of the proceeds among all the families.

Writing in an emergency motion to stop the parents’ collection attempt, trustee Christopher R. Murray says “the specter of a pell-mell seizure of FSS’s assets, including its cash, threatens to throw the business into chaos,” which would amount to a “value-destructive money grab” that he argues would imperil plans to “wind-up FSS’s operations and liquidate its inventory.”

The bulk of the families also want the bankruptcy court to stop the move, noting that the “race to the courthouse risked a ‘winner take all’ outcome.” It would be “the most disastrous end possible,” these families’ lawyers wrote in court papers, if parents “holding less than 5% of the liquidated claims against FSS and Jones would be entitled to recover 100% of the value of FSS, which is Jones’ most valuable asset.”

Attorneys for Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old Jesse Lewis was killed in the school shooting, pushed back against the accusations. “We were disappointed to see the negative rhetoric used by the Trustee and by other victims of Alex Jones and Infowars,” Jarrod Martin said. "While we understand their frustration, we have been consistent with our position that we intended to make Jones and Infowars pay for their wrongdoings.”

For now, Infowars is still broadcasting online, and Jones vows that will continue, even if the show becomes part of some new arrangement — for example, if Free Speech Systems is bought by an ally of his or by another company.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Tovia Smith
Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.