The families accused Alex Jones of obfuscation and extravagance.
The families of the victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, who obtained nearly $1.5 billion in legal verdicts against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for falsely claiming that the massacre was a hoax, have proposed a settlement for a fraction of that amount — at least $85 million over 10 years.
The proposal was submitted in Jones’ personal bankruptcy case in Houston last week. In a court filing, the families’ lawyers said they believed the settlement was a feasible way to expedite the resolution of the bankruptcy reorganization cases of both Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems.
However, in the strongly worded document, the lawyers continued to criticize the Infowars host for failing to rein in his personal spending and “extravagant lifestyle,” failing to maintain the value of his assets, refusing to sell properties and failing to provide certain financial records.
“Jones has failed in every respect to act as the fiduciary required by the Bankruptcy Code in exchange for the reprieve he has received for almost a year. His time is up,” the families’ lawyers wrote.
The lawyers gave Jones two options: either liquidate his estate and distribute the proceeds to creditors or pay them at least $8.5 million a year for 10 years — plus 50 percent of any income over $9 million per year.
At a court hearing in Houston, Jones’ personal bankruptcy lawyer, Vickie Driver, suggested Monday that the $85 million, 10-year settlement offer was too high and unaffordable for Jones.
“There are no financials that will ever show that Mr. Jones ever made that … in 10 years,” she said.
In a new bankruptcy plan filed on Nov. 18, Free Speech Systems said it could afford to pay creditors about $4 million a year, down from an estimate earlier this year of $7 million to $10 million annually. The company said it expected to earn about $19.2 million next year from selling the dietary supplements, clothing and other merchandise Jones advertises on his shows, while operating costs including salaries would amount to about $14.3 million.
Jones reported about $13 million in total assets in his latest financial statements filed with the bankruptcy court, including about $856,000 in various bank accounts.
Under the bankruptcy case orders, Jones had been earning a salary of $20,000 every two weeks, or $520,000 a year. But this month, a court-appointed restructuring officer increased Jones’ pay to about $57,700 biweekly, or $1.5 million a year, saying he has been “grossly” underpaid for how essential he is to the media company.
Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez on Monday rejected the $1.5 million salary, saying the pay raise didn’t seem to have been done properly under bankruptcy laws and a hearing needed to be held.
If Jones rejects the families’ offer, Lopez would decide how much he would pay the families and other creditors.
On Dec. 14, 2012, a gunman killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Jones repeatedly said on his show that the shooting never occurred and was staged to tighten gun laws.
Some of the relatives of the Sandy Hook victims sued Jones in Connecticut and Texas, winning nearly $1.5 billion in verdicts against him. In October, Lopez ruled that Jones could not use bankruptcy protection to avoid paying more than $1.1 billon of that debt.
The relatives of the school shooting victims testified at the trials about being harassed and threatened by Jones’ followers, who sent threats and even confronted the bereaved families in person, accusing them of being “crisis actors” whose children never existed.
Jones is appealing the verdicts, saying he didn’t get fair trials and his speech was protected by the First Amendment.