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What we know about the dispute between conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and the Sandy Hook families over his fortune

HOUSTON (AP) — Bombastic Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was ordered to liquidate his personal assets because he owes $1.5 billion for his false claims that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 first-graders and six teachers were killed, was a hoax.

But the immediate future of his media platform Infowars and the money behind the business that made Jones rich and connected him to far-right figures, celebrities and politicians remain uncertain.

The federal bankruptcy judge who ordered the liquidation of the assets on Friday also dismissed a separate bankruptcy case against Infowars parent company Free Speech Systems.

Before the hearing, a combative Jones predicted the end of Infowars could come “very soon,” and the website breathlessly warned that day could be its last broadcast. Yet he was smiling as he left the show hours later, calling into an Infowars show to say, “The bizarre political attempts to hijack the operation have failed.”

The Dispute over Jones' fortune This point was reached after he and Free Speech Systems Insolvency protection in 2022. This came after relatives of many of the Sandy Hook shooting victims won defamation verdicts totaling more than $1.4 billion in Connecticut and $49 million in Texas.

Here are some things you should know about Jones and the Sandy Hook families' efforts to force him to pay:

Who is Alex Jones and what is Infowars?

Jones, a native Texan with a broad chest and a rough voice, has widespread conspiracy theories ranging from the staging of the September 11 terrorist attacks to alleged UN efforts to reduce the world population.

Jones had just graduated from high school in Austin when he began broadcasting at a public television station in the 1990s. After being fired from a local radio station, he began broadcasting from home via his website Infowars.

Jones continues to host a four-hour talk show there every day. This week's interview guests included former Fox News star Tucker Carlson and British actor Russell Brand.

From just two employees in 2004, Jones built his company into a media empire that employed 60 people by 2010. According to court documents, his company has four studios in Austin and a warehouse for products he sells online, including nutritional supplements with names like Infowars Life Brain Force Plus and Life Super Male Vitality. Much of his revenue came from those sales.

But both Jones and the Sandy Hook families' lawyers believe that Infowars will eventually cease operations due to the enormous debts it now owes them.

The connection to Sandy Hook

The shoot had barely happened when Jones began to spread the lie that it was a joke. Families of victims who sued Jones said they were subjected to years of torment, threats and abuse by people who believed the lies spread on his show. One father said conspiracy theorists urinated on the grave of his seven-year-old son and threatened to dig up the coffin.

The families fought back with lawsuits in Connecticut and Texas.

Testifying in the Texas case in 2022, Jones acknowledged that the shooting was “100 percent real” and that it was “absolutely irresponsible” to call it a hoax.

How much money does Jones have?

Jones has about $9 million worth of personal assets, including his home, according to court documents in his bankruptcy case. Friday's ruling means much of that must be sold. However, his main house, valued at $2.6 million in the Austin area, and some other possessions are protected from liquidation in the bankruptcy. He has already taken steps to sell his Texas ranch, worth about $2.8 million, along with a gun collection and other assets.

A lawsuit is pending against the families in Texas accuses Jones of illegal misappropriation and embezzlement of millions of dollars. He has denied the allegations.

What happens next?

What will happen to Free Speech Systems and Infowars is still unclear. Many of the Sandy Hook families had asked for the company to be liquidated as well.

The only thing that is certain is that there will be further legal disputes. The lawyers involved in the case have mentioned at least two possible scenarios.

One possibility would be for Infowars and Free Speech Systems to continue operating while state courts in Texas and Connecticut try to collect the $1.5 billion in debt. Or the Sandy Hook families could go back to bankruptcy court and ask the judge to liquidate the company as part of Jones' personal case, since he owns the company.

According to the families' lawyers, a trustee appointed Friday in Jones' bankruptcy proceedings now has control of his assets, including Infowars.

One of them, Chris Mattei, described Infowars on Friday as “soon to be non-existent.”

“Today is a good day,” Mattei said in a text message. “Alex Jones has lost ownership of Infowars, the corrupt company he used for years to attack the families of Connecticut and so many others.”

Jones seemed content to be able to operate for the time being.

“Of the two bad results, this is the much better one,” Jones said. “I haven't given up. I'm fighting.”

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Collins reported from Hartford, Connecticut, and Vertuno from Austin, Texas.