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By DAVE COLLINS and JUAN A. LOZANO – Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) — A federal judge on Friday ordered the liquidation of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ personal assets but dismissed his company’s separate bankruptcy filing, leaving the immediate future of his media platform Infowars uncertain because he owes $1.5 billion for his false claims that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.

Judge Christopher Lopez agreed to convert Jones’ proposed personal bankruptcy into a liquidation. However, Lopez dismissed the case of his Austin, Texas-based company, Free Speech Systems, after Jones’ attempts to reach an agreement with the Sandy Hook families on his proposals to reorganize and continue operating the company by paying millions of dollars failed.

It was initially unclear what would happen to Free Speech Systems, Infowars’ parent company, in the next few weeks. Jones had built the company into a multimillion-dollar business over the past 25 years by selling nutritional supplements and other products. But both Jones and the Sandy Hook families’ lawyers believe that Infowars will eventually cease operations due to its enormous debts.

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According to lawyers for the Sandy Hook families, a trustee appointed Friday to oversee the liquidation of Jones’ personal bankruptcy proceedings now has control of his assets, including Infowars.

The dismissal of Free Speech Systems’ lawsuit means the families can now immediately collect the $1.5 billion in state courts in Texas and Connecticut, where they won defamation suits against Jones and the company. It’s possible Infowars will continue to operate during the collection effort, which could include selling the company’s assets.

Jones, who smiled as the judge dismissed the company’s lawsuit, called Infowars after the trial and predicted more battles in state court. “The bizarre political attempts to hijack the company have failed,” he said, adding that if he loses Infowars, he will find another way to air his shows.

Outside the courthouse, he railed against the families who did not accept his restructuring proposals, claiming they were being used by political groups in a conspiracy to silence him. He said he would try to maximize Infowars’ revenue to make money for creditors and then wind down the company in a way that benefits the 44 employees.

“It’s about taking me off the air,” Jones said. “Understand that what you’ve read about me in the mainstream media or what I’ve said about Sandy Hook or anything like that has nothing to do with reality.”

Chris Mattei, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families, called Infowars “soon to be bankrupt” as his clients seek to collect the debt in state court. He said the families will also sue for Jones’ future earnings.

“Today is a good day,” Mattei said in a text message after the hearing. “Alex Jones has lost ownership of Infowars, the corrupt company he used for years to attack the families of Connecticut and so many others. … Alex Jones is neither a martyr nor a victim. He is the perpetrator of the worst slander in American history.”

Lopez had been asked to either convert Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy reorganization into a liquidation or dismiss the case. He said his sole focus was on what was best for the company and its creditors. He also said the Free Speech Systems case appeared to be one of the longest-running of its kind in the country and the deadline for resolution was approaching.

“I was never asked today to make a decision on whether or not to cancel a show. That would never have happened today anyway,” Lopez said. “This case is one of the more difficult I’ve ever had. When you look at it, I think creditors are better off pursuing their rights in the state courts.”

Many of Jones’ personal assets will be sold, but his primary residence in the Austin area and some other properties are exempt from the bankruptcy liquidation. He has already taken steps to sell his Texas ranch, valued at about $2.8 million, a gun collection and other assets to pay off debts.

In the run-up to Friday’s hearing, Jones had told his Internet and radio listeners that Free Speech Systems was about to close because of bankruptcy. He urged them to download videos from his online archive to preserve them and directed them to a new website run by his father’s company if they wanted to continue buying the nutritional supplements he sells on his show.

Jones has personal assets of about $9 million, according to recent financial filings in court. Free Speech Systems has about $6 million in cash and about $1.2 million in inventory, according to J. Patrick Magill, the court-appointed restructuring manager who will run the company during bankruptcy.

During Friday’s hearing, attorneys for the Sandy Hook families reiterated claims that Jones illegally misappropriated millions of dollars before and during the bankruptcies and questioned why he sent his audience to his father’s website. The families have a lawsuit pending in Texas accusing Jones of illegally misappropriating money, which he denies and says they will continue their efforts to get the money back.

Jones and Free Speech Systems filed for bankruptcy in 2022 after relatives of many victims of the 2012 school massacre that killed 20 first-graders and six teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, won more than $1.4 billion in damages in Connecticut and $49 million in Texas.

Relatives said they were traumatized by Jones’ comments and the actions of his followers. They have testified to being harassed and threatened by Jones’ followers, some of whom personally confronted the grieving families, saying the shooting never happened and their children never existed. One parent said someone threatened to dig up his dead son’s grave.

Jones has appealed the verdicts in state court.

The families in the Connecticut suit, including relatives of eight dead children and adults, had asked that Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy proceedings also be converted to liquidation. But the parents in the Texas suit – whose child, 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, died – wanted the company’s lawsuit dismissed because it would speed up the collection of Jones’ debts to them.

The company’s lawyers filed documents showing that the company favored liquidation, but attorneys in Jones’ personal bankruptcy case wanted the judge to dismiss the company’s lawsuit.

Collins reported from Hartford, Connecticut.

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