Alex Jones offers Sandy Hook victims' families $55 million to settle legal claims
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is asking the families of the victims in the Dec. 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. to accept a minimum settlement of $5.5 million a year for 10 years (or $55 million in total), with more possible depending on Jones' income. The families who accept the deal would have to give up all legal claims against Jones or any related party.
The proposal falls far short of the close to $1.5 billion courts in Connecticut and Texas collectively awarded the victims' relatives in lawsuits against Jones for falsely claiming the shooting — which left 26 people dead, the majority of them 6- and 7-year-old children — was a hoax.
Chris Mattei, lead trial counsel for the Sandy Hook families in Connecticut, said Jones' offer was "not a serious proposal in any way."
The victims' families, meanwhile, filed a counterproposal aimed at liquidating close to all of Jones' assets, including those relating to his media company Infowars, through the setting up of a "General Unsecured Claim" (GUC) trust. Jones' primary residence and a few other assets would be spared under bankruptcy laws.
"Our proposal, which is to liquidate Alex Jones' assets, is the only feasible proposal to have the families be compensated quickly and in a way that recognizes the court's decision that Alex Jones' conduct was malicious and intentional," Mattei told NPR.
The competing proposals were filed Friday in U.S. bankruptcy court in Houston. Jones is expected to find out how much he will ultimately have to pay following hearings scheduled for February.
"It is unusual to have a case like this where you have competing plans of reorganization," said Jonathan Seymour, an associate professor at Duke Law School who specializes in bankruptcy law. "The bankruptcy judge has got to decide what he's going to do with those two competing plans, but my sense is that it will be very difficult for Jones to push through his own plan without the support of the creditors."
The relatives of 10 of those killed in the shooting sued Jones for defamation. A Connecticut lawsuit ordered Jones to pay the families more than $1.4 billion, and an additional $50 million was awarded to the families in a Texas lawsuit. (A third trial along similar lines in Texas is pending.)
Jones and Free Speech Systems, the parent company of his conspiracy theory media company Infowars, both filed for bankruptcy last year.
The families then went after Jones in bankruptcy court.
According to a recent article in Fortune Magazine, Jones has a net worth of around $14 million. "His personal spending topped $93,000 in July alone, including thousands of dollars on meals and entertainment," the article said. "His assets include a home worth $2.6 million, a $2.2 million ranch, a $1.8 million lake house, a $500,000 rental property, and four vehicles and two boats worth more than $330,000 in total."
Jones denies living an extravagant lifestyle.
"We are literally on empty," he said in a social media video in October. "So this idea of we're going to take your money away doesn't exist because the money doesn't exist. So I don't like to laugh at these people, but, I mean, I don't know how you don't."
Jones' lawyers did not respond to NPR's request for comment.
A Houston-based lawyer representing some of the victims' families, Jarrod Martin, expressed cautious optimism about the latest developments in the fractious case.
"This bankruptcy plan is the first time Jones has shared how he will be held accountable for the harm he caused the families," said Martin in a statement to NPR. "Our team is carefully examining that plan and will share our views of it in due time."
In a trial in Connecticut in 2022, relatives of those killed in the Sandy Hook shooting spoke about the ongoing emotional distress they've suffered for more than a decade following Jones' claims that the shooting was a fiction staged by "crisis actors" aimed at tightening gun laws. They said they have been repeatedly harassed by people who deny the shooting occurred. Some reported verbal abuse; others, death and rape threats.
Jones has been involved in a number of disinformation campaigns in recent years. He perpetuated the myth that Donald Trump was the true winner of the 2020 presidential election, and pushed anti-vaccine ideologies about COVID.
His accounts were removed from several mainstream social media platforms. But he is continuing to speak out in public, both through Infowars and elsewhere. Elon Musk reinstated Jones' account on X (formerly Twitter) a week ago.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.