Aug 29 (Reuters) – The parent company of far-right website Infowars agreed on Monday to face a second U.S. defamation trial stemming from the company’s false claims the deadly 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting was a hoax.
Free Speech Systems’ attorneys told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez in Houston the company would no longer oppose a trial in Connecticut next month, even though the company’s bankruptcy would normally shield it from lawsuits.
The Connecticut trial will determine how much FSS and its founder, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, should pay in a defamation case brought by family members of children slain in the shooting.
The Sandy Hook gunman, Adam Lanza, used a Remington Bushmaster rifle to kill 20 children and six staff at the school in Newtown, Connecticut – a massacre that ended when he killed himself with the sound of approaching police sirens.
Families of children killed in the 2012 shooting have won judgments finding Jones and his companies liable for defamation in Texas and Connecticut.
On Aug. 5 a Texas jury decided Jones must pay the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the massacre $45.2 million in punitive damages – on top of $4.1 million in compensatory damages – for falsely claiming the shooting was a hoax.
Free Speech Systems filed for Chapter 11 on July 29, when the Texas defamation trial was already under way. The company initially argued that going to trial in Connecticut would jeopardize its ability to reorganize, but it agreed to participate after a Connecticut judge ruled that the trial could go forward against Jones, who is not bankrupt.
Opening arguments in the Connecticut defamation case are scheduled to begin in September.
Three other companies owned by Jones – InfoW LLC, Prison Planet TV LLC and Infowars Health LLC – filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, but they voluntarily ended their bankruptcy cases in June after failing to reach a settlement with the Sandy Hook plaintiffs.
FSS, the ultimate parent company of Infowars and its affiliates, sells dietary supplements and branded products like T-shirts through the Infowars website.
During the Texas trial, Jones acknowledged that the shooting was “100 percent real”. (Reporting by Dietrich Knauth; Editing by Mark Porter and Howard Goller)