Alex Jones pictured during his Texas trial (Law&Crime Network)
A Texas-based federal bankruptcy judge ruled Thursday that Infowars host Alex Jones can’t hide behind Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to avoid have to pay up in a major way for “willful and malicious” harm he caused Sandy Hook families by lying about the 2012 elementary school shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez began his ruling by noting that the Bankruptcy Code “provides that some debts are excepted from a bankruptcy ‘discharge’ and remain enforceable against the debtor even after a bankruptcy case ends.”
Some debts — but not all.
The relevant statute, 11 U.S. Code § 523(a)(6), says that an individual debtor who caused “willful and malicious injury,” such as defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, cannot receive relief for that liability through a chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.
Therefore, the judge granted partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, and in favor of Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of Noah Pozner, the youngest victim of the school massacre who was murdered just weeks after his 6th birthday.
More Law&Crime coverage: Alex Jones files for personal bankruptcy protection after massive Sandy Hook judgments
Jones, who called the shooting a “giant hoax” and repeatedly encouraged his viewers to see the tragedy that way, lost by default in Texas and Connecticut cases after “repeated violations of discovery orders” and was slapped with $1 billion-plus in damages, rendering him “liable for the defamation and emotional distress claims,” Judge Lopez noted.
In reality, the only thing left for the bankruptcy court to determine from here is the “amount of damages based on this willful and malicious injury” to Pozner and De La Rosa, since there was “never a trial on damages” in their case, the judge wrote.
“So this case must proceed to trial about the amount of damages stemming from the deemed admitted willful and malicious injury Jones caused the Plaintiffs. And again, this Court can handle the trial,” Lopez said. “Therefore, the summary judgment motion is granted as to the finding of willful and malicious injury about defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, but denied as to the amount of any damages.”
In the end, the judge granted summary judgment in favor of the Heslin defamation claim and the accompanying $110,000 in compensatory and $4.2 million in punitive damages. Lopez also granted the motion as to Jones “committing a willful and malicious injury to Heslin and Lewis based on the deemed admissions concerning the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.”
The judge did not assign an amount for the emotional distress claim, however, noting that it must go through the judicial process.
“[A] trial must proceed to determine the amount of damages based on this willful and malicious injury,” the judge wrote.
Lopez made the same ruling as to the Pozner and De La Rosa plaintiffs and similarly ordered that a damages trial must be held.
“Any objection raised by Jones not specifically addressed above is denied,” Lopez concluded.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]