A judge in Texas has delayed Alex Jones’ trial in his Sandy Hook defamation case after the far-right conspiracy theorist filed for bankruptcy last week.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin in Austin on Monday for a lawsuit brought by families of victims of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School where 26 people – including 20 young children – were murdered.
Last year, Mr Jones lost defamation lawsuits in both Texas, where Infowars is headquartered, and Connecticut, where the mass shooting took place, after he spouted false claims that the massacre was “a hoax” and that the murdered children were actors faking their own deaths.
Next week’s trial would have determined how much money Mr Jones should pay out to the families in the Texas case.
But, in the latest twist in the decades-long legal saga, a judge put a pause on proceedings following what appeared to be the latest attempt from the right-wing extremist to evade justice.
On Sunday, Mr Jones filed for bankruptcy for three entities he owns, including his radio show Infowars, claiming liabilities of as much as $10m each.
The far-right radio show – which he used as a mouthpiece for his lies about the mass shooting – filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Southern District of Texas, according to court filings.
The bankruptcy filing enables a business to keep operating while it prepares a turnaround plan – and also pauses civil litigation.
Attorneys for the families of the Sandy Hook victims have accused Mr Jones of making the move in an attempt to try to hide millions of dollars in assets and avoid paying out for what he has put them through.
District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble announced on Wednesday that the first trial would be postponed but vowed to set a new date “as soon as I possibly can”.
“As soon as I do get a remand (from bankruptcy court) I will be resetting this trial. We are going to go to trial as soon as I possibly can,” the judge said.
The latest move comes off the back of a dramatic month amid the lawsuits as Mr Jones was held in contempt of court and fined thousands of dollars for failing to appear twice for a deposition – before the money was ordered to be returned to him.
On 23 and 24 March, Mr Jones was scheduled to appear for a deposition as part of settlement proceedings but he dodged the deposition both days.
His attorneys made a last-ditch attempt to delay testifying, claiming he was too sick to attend due to unnamed “medical conditions” and that doctors had advised him to remain at home.
Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis turned down the matter, in part because he was seemingly well enough requests to continue broadcasting his hours-long show – leaving his home on at least one occasion to travel to his studio to film it.
It later emerged that the doctor who advised him that he was too unwell to attend the deposition was the same doctor who appeared on his show on 21 March to attack the Covid-19 vaccines as “poison” and call the US’s top doctor Dr Anthony Fauci “the greatest mass murderer in the history of the world”.
After missing the deposition for a second day, attorneys for the victims’ families asked the judge to find Mr Jones in contempt of court and have him arrested.
Meanwhile, Mr Jones complained about his unfair treatment to his listeners, claiming that he was being “treated worse than somebody on death row”.
He then put forward a settlement offer of a “heartfelt apology” and a $120,000 payout per plaintiff – an offer that was swiftly rejected by the families who lambasted it as an attempt “to escape a public reckoning under oath with his deceitful, profit-driven campaign against the plaintiffs and the memory of their loved ones lost at Sandy Hook.”
On 31 March, Mr Jones was held in contempt of court and was slapped with escalating fines starting at $25,000 for each day he failed to sit for the deposition.
He finally sat for his two-day deposition on April 5 and 6 and paid $75,000 in late — $25,000 on Friday 1 April and $50,000 on Monday 4 April, according to the court records.
However, on 14 April, Judge Bellis ordered that the money be returned to Mr Jones because he had shown up at his rescheduled deposition.
A new trial date has not been set for the Texas suit.
The Connecticut trial is still several months away from starting.