(Reuters) – Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones could face two more defamation trials in 2023, under an agreement meant to put a price on lies that Jones told about school shootings in the U.S.
Jones’ attorneys previewed the agreement at a Wednesday court hearing in Houston, telling U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez that it allows Jones to avoid further trials if he completes a bankruptcy settlement by Aug. 31.
Jones filed for bankruptcy in December after he and his company Free Speech Systems LLC were found liable for a combined $1.5 billion in two previous defamation trials brought by the parents of children killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre.
Lopez will decide whether to approve the agreement on June 29. Since Jones and his company are bankrupt, the trials would not normally be allowed to proceed without bankruptcy court permission.
Jones has said that he can not afford to pay the Sandy Hook defamation judgments, and is attempting to resolve all legal claims against him through a settlement in bankruptcy.
Jones had claimed the killing of 20 students and six staff members in the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut was staged with actors as part of a government plot to seize Americans’ guns. Jones has since acknowledged the shooting occurred.
Under the new agreement, three plaintiffs will be able to proceed to trial in Texas state courts if no bankruptcy settlement is signed by Aug. 31. The trials would determine the value of the plaintiffs’ claims, but the plaintiffs would not be able to collect on any judgments without further orders from the bankruptcy court.
Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, whose six-year-old son Noah was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, would proceed to trial in October. Jones falsely said that De La Rosa was an actor who “faked” a CNN interview about her son’s death, and a Texas judge found Jones liable for defaming the parents after he refused to comply with court orders in the case.
Survivors of Marcel Fontaine, who was falsely identified as the gunman in the 2018 Parkland, Florida school shooting, would proceed to trial in December. Fontaine died in 2022.
The new agreement includes a placeholder value for Pozner, De La Rosa and Fontaine’s claims, which will remain confidential during settlement talks, Jennifer Hardy, an attorney for the Texas plaintiffs, said at Wednesday’s hearing.
The placeholder value would help determine how assets would be divided among Jones’ creditors in the bankruptcy, and it would determine the weight accorded to the three plaintiffs’ claims in any future vote on the bankruptcy settlement. Without a placeholder value, the Texas defamation claims could be given far less weight than the defamation claims that have already resulted in $1.5 billion in verdicts, according to Jones’ court filings.
The case is Alex Jones, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, No. 22-33553
For Jones: Vickie Driver of Crowe & Dunlevy
For Free Speech Systems: Ray Battaglia of the Law Offices of Ray Battaglia
For De La Rosa, Pozner and Fontaine: Jennifer Hardy of Willkie Farr & Gallagher
The legal fallout from Alex Jones’ false Sandy Hook claims
Alex Jones says he can pay less than 1% of Sandy Hook verdicts
Alex Jones files for bankruptcy following $1.5 billion Sandy Hook verdicts
U.S. judge ‘troubled’ by Alex Jones’ bankruptcy evasion
To read the full article, Click Here