The conspiracy theorist Alex Jones proposed paying Sandy Hook families who won more than $1 billion in damages against him last year a combined total of at least $5.5 million annually over a decade, while the families aim to liquidate his Infowars media empire, according to competing plans filed late Friday.
The proposals, while far apart, signal that efforts to resolve Mr. Jones’s and his company’s bankruptcy are entering a final phase, after dragging on for more than a year. Final hearings in the case are slated for late February in a Houston bankruptcy court.
“Today is the first time Mr. Jones has publicly shared his plan to be accountable for the harm he’s caused these families,” said Avi Moshenberg, a lawyer for family members who sued Mr. Jones in Texas. “We’re very focused on the families receiving what is fair, and will share our review of Jones’s plan in due time.”
An agreement on a bankruptcy settlement plan would help bring to a close a long-running courtroom drama that has highlighted the human cost of peddling incendiary falsehoods in an era of mushrooming disinformation. Mr. Jones, through his Infowars radio and online show, has been near the center of many recent disinformation campaigns, including coronavirus vaccine skepticism and the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from President Donald J. Trump.
After 20 first graders and six educators died in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Jones spent years spreading lies that the massacre was a hoax aimed at confiscating Americans’ firearms, and that the victims’ families were actors complicit in the plot. The families suffered online abuse, personal confrontations and death threats from people who believed the conspiracy theory.
In 2018, the families of 10 victims sued him for defamation, and in trials in Texas and Connecticut they were awarded more than $1.4 billion in damages. As the cases went to trial, Infowars declared bankruptcy, and Mr. Jones declared personal bankruptcy late last year. The families have been fighting him in bankruptcy court ever since.
Despite the mammoth judgments against him, Mr. Jones has not retreated from public commentary. This week, he was allowed back onto the social media platform X, where he has continued to sidestep responsibility for spreading Sandy Hook lies, newly upsetting some of the family members. And he has been spending extravagantly, with court filings detailing expenses of up to nearly $100,000 a month.
While significant, Mr. Jones’s proposed settlement falls far short of what he has been ordered to pay. Documents detailing Mr. Jones’s and Infowars’ finances filed with the court suggest that his and his business’s net worth is nowhere near what he owes the families.
Under Mr. Jones’s plan, a lump sum of at least $5.5 million per year would be shared among the plaintiffs and would be accompanied by a percentage of Infowars’ and his personal annual revenue. After a decade of payments, Mr. Jones’s debt would be considered satisfied.
Family members who do not opt to settle would still receive a portion of Infowars’ and Mr. Jones’s revenues, but no share in the guaranteed minimum of $5.5 million annually. They would also be permitted to pursue him indefinitely for the damages due them.
The proposal appears to be based on a template offered by the families’ lawyers in a hearing Nov. 27, when they proposed a settlement of at least $8.5 million annually for 10 years.
Lawyers for Mr. Jones did not respond to requests for comment.
The families’ proposal would liquidate Mr. Jones’s assets, with proceeds distributed among the families who sued him. Crucially, that liquidation would not release Mr. Jones from his debt to the families, in effect meaning that he would be paying them for the rest of his life.
The families’ plan is in keeping with a ruling from Judge Christopher Lopez of the bankruptcy court that Mr. Jones cannot use his Chapter 11 filing to evade paying the damages. Earlier this year, the families asked that Judge Lopez order Mr. Jones to pay them the full awards, with no possibility of a trial or a forced settlement over a lesser amount — in legal terms, to make Mr. Jones’s debts to the families “non-dischargeable” through bankruptcy. In October, the judge agreed, allowing the families to pursue payment for the rest of Mr. Jones’s working life.
The plans filed Friday are the first moves in what is called a confirmation process for reaching a final bankruptcy plan. Judge Lopez is set to hold hearings on the bankruptcy Feb. 27 to 29 in Houston, from which a final resolution is expected to emerge.