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Experts say Alex Jones faces a long-running prospect of hiding assets after Sandy Hook’s $1 billion verdict

Experts say Alex Jones faces a long-running prospect of hiding assets after Sandy Hook’s  billion verdict

by Jack Quinn

(Reuters) – Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has vowed to fight a nearly $1 billion libel ruling against him, but experts say neither bankruptcy nor a challenge to the findings of a Connecticut jury on Wednesday are likely to save his personal fortune and media empire.

A jury in Waterbury, Connecticut, state court found Jones and his parent company Infowars must pay $965 million to several families of the 20 children and six employees killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 for claiming they were bogus actors. Tragedy as part of a government plot.

The sentence can increase significantly when the judge decides how much punitive damages you will pay next month. It also comes three months after a Texas jury awarded Sandy Hook parents $49.3 million in a similar case.

Jones said he will resist the ruling on appeal and will use the recent bankruptcy of his company, Free Speech Systems LLC, to avoid payment. It is not clear if he and his companies can pay the sentences in full, but the plaintiffs’ attorneys have vowed to prevent him from protecting any of his assets.

“We are confident that we will recover as much of the judgment as possible in the near term, and in the long term, that judgment is not going anywhere,” said Chris Mattie, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

Infowars’ finances aren’t public, but according to court testimony, the site generated at least $165 million in revenue between 2016 and 2018. An economist in the Texas case estimated Jones personally worth between $135 million and $270 million.

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Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy in July. Sandy Hook families intervened in the case and accused Jones of withdrawing up to $62 million from Free Speech Systems while burdening it with $54 million in “fabricated” debts owed to a different company owned by Jones and his parents.

Minor Myers, a professor of law at Yukon College, said bankruptcy courts have broad discretion to decide which creditors get paid first, and are vigilant in cases in which companies try to steal money via the debts of fictitious entities.

“No bankruptcy judge will allow Alex Jones and his father to stand in line before the plaintiffs,” Myers said.

“obscene” behavior

Plaintiffs with judgments against bankrupt entities usually recover only a portion of the debts they owe, along with other creditors whose debts have been rated in priority by the court.

For judgments involving willful tort, courts often rule that plaintiffs can continue to demand payment after bankruptcy ends by pursuing wages and other assets, experts say.

“Jones’ primary behavior was horrible, and that’s the thing that can get you past the bounds of bankruptcy,” attorney Brian Kapatek told Reuters.

In the near term, Jones is unlikely to win if he asks a judge or an appellate court to reduce the sentence on the grounds that it is excessive, according to several Connecticut attorneys.

Attorney Mike D’Amico said that, unlike some states, Connecticut does not set a ceiling on damages, and judges rarely question jury verdicts because the legal standard for doing so is high.

While the verdict is striking, it includes more than a dozen plaintiffs who say they have endured years of harassment, death threats and stalking at the hands of Jones’ followers.

D’Amico said the $1 billion sentence is appropriate given the uniquely tragic circumstances of the case and the egregious nature of Jones’ behavior.

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โ€œThis was an unspeakable tragedy in terms of its impact and it involved extremely hateful behaviour,โ€ D’Amico said. “This is the kind of award you would expect.”

Jones may have damaged his chances as well by repeatedly violating court orders, claiming that the trial was a sham and erupted in a sermon against the “liberals” during his testimony. Roy Guterman, a professor at Syracuse University School of Law, said Jones’ “contempt for the system” would likely undermine any appeal.

โ€œIt would be a big request for the defendant to go back to court and say, ‘Can you now reduce this to something more reasonable? Gutterman said.

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