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A federal bankruptcy judge on Thursday halted an attempt by the parents of a boy killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to collect part of the $50 million they were awarded in a lawsuit against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones over his false claim that the massacre was a hoax.

Infowars on the Newtown shootingInfowars on the Newtown shooting

Right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones speaks to the media after arriving for a hearing before a bankruptcy judge in federal court in Houston on Friday, June 14. David J. Phillip/Associated Press file

Attorneys for Scarlett Lewis and Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse Lewis was killed in the 2012 Connecticut shooting, obtained an order from a Texas state judge earlier this month allowing them to begin collecting some assets from Jones’ company, Infowars parent Free Speech Systems. The order came after the company’s bankruptcy reorganization failed and the lawsuit was dismissed.

But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez in Houston said Thursday that the state judge’s decision contradicted federal bankruptcy law.

Lopez said a new trustee appointed to liquidate Jones’ personal assets now has control of his stake in Free Speech Systems. Lopez said the trustee, Christopher Murray, has the authority under federal law to sell the company’s assets and divide the proceeds equally among all of Jones’ creditors, including other relatives of Sandy Hook victims who were awarded more than $1.4 billion in a similar lawsuit in Connecticut over Jones’ lies about the shooting.

“I don’t think the state court was actually informed about all of these issues,” Lopez said.

Murray plans to shut down Infowars, the multimillion-dollar company Jones built over the past 25 years selling nutritional supplements, survival gear and other merchandise.

Jones has a personal net worth 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 recent court testimony.

Bankruptcy lawyers for Jones and his company did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment Thursday. Jones said on his show Thursday that while Infowars will cease to exist in two to three months, he will resume his broadcasts on another platform that he will have to build from scratch. He also claimed that Lewis and Heslin’s efforts in Texas state court to recoup some of his assets were “illegal.”

Murray filed a motion in state court on Sunday asking Lopez to stop Lewis and Heslin’s collection efforts because they were hindering the closure and liquidation of Jones’ companies.

Free Speech Systems, based in Jones’ hometown of Austin, Texas, filed for bankruptcy in July 2022 in the middle of the Texas trial that resulted in a $50 million defamation settlement for Lewis and Heslin. Jones filed for personal bankruptcy later in 2022 after relatives of eight children and adults killed in the shooting won the Connecticut trial.

On June 14, Lopez converted Jones’ personal bankruptcy case to a liquidation, meaning many of his assets will be sold to pay creditors, except for his primary residence and other assets exempt from liquidation. That same day, Lopez also dismissed Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy case after Jones and the families could not agree on a final plan.

The bankruptcies automatically halted the Sandy Hook families’ efforts to collect compensation from the state lawsuits. Lawyers for Lewis and Heslin said the dismissal of Free Speech System’s lawsuit means they can go back to Texas state court in Austin and ask a judge to order the company to begin distributing money and other assets to Lewis and Heslin.

“Our clients are frustrated that their rights in state court will ultimately not be granted,” said Mark Bankston, attorney for Lewis and Heslin. “It appears that this case remains in limbo to the delight of Mr. Jones while the other group of plaintiffs insists that they are entitled to almost all of the compensation.”

Lewis and Heslin disagreed with relatives in the Connecticut litigation over how to resolve Jones’ bankruptcies and sell his assets.

Relatives in the Connecticut suit had fought against the dismissal of Free Speech Systems’ bankruptcy petition, saying it would lead to a “race” between the Sandy Hook families and state courts in Texas and Connecticut to see who could get Jones’ assets first. The Connecticut plaintiffs supported the trustee’s motion to halt collection efforts in Texas.

“Connecticut families have always sought a fair and equitable distribution of Free Speech System assets for all families, and today’s decision puts us back on that path,” said Christopher Mattei, an attorney for Sandy Hook relatives who sued Jones in Connecticut.

The shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, left 20 first-graders and six teachers dead. Not all of the victims’ families sued Jones.

Relatives said they were traumatized by Jones’s hoaxes and the actions of his followers. They said they were 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 courts. He has said he now believes the shooting happened, but free speech rights would have allowed him to say it didn’t.

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