You’ve probably already heard of Alex Jones, but if you haven’t, or you need a refresher, he’s the right-wing conspiracy theorist who has used his media company, InfoWars, to promote the idea that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a giant hoax created and promoted by anti-gun activists. Among other things, Jones claimed the grieving families and survivors of the massacre were “crisis actors” who were paid to lie about the mass shooting.
Jones has built a huge following, and many of them believe his lies. Many of his listeners even reached the point of actively seeking out Sandy Hook survivors and the families of those slaughtered, threatening and harassing them for their alleged lies.
The families sued Alex Jones for defamation and were collectively awarded $1.1 billion in damages.
Soon after that ruling, Jones filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which would have allowed him to restructure his business and potentially avoid paying the money he owes those families.
A judge recently ruled that Jones could not use bankruptcy as a means to avoid paying the $1.1 billion payments. The families took this as a victory, but Jones says he isn’t done fighting.
Jones’s net worth was valued at $14 million, yet he claims he has no money. He says he is $1 million in debt, and that the millions of dollars generated by his media company go to pay the bills, making the $1.1 billion ruling hypothetical. He also says he will continue to appeal the decision.
Meanwhile, he is asking his listeners to make donations to help him pay his legal bills. But those bills and the huge ruling against him have not stopped him from spending close to six figures in one month, much of it on lavish meals and entertainment.
Jones insists that the courts cannot take away his “freedom of speech,” and that he will remain on the air.
The problem with trying to invoke his right to “freedom of speech” is that it fails to recognize that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has its limitations.
Threatening people with physical harm is not protected under the First Amendment. Nor is making false statements about someone, especially when you know those statements are false and you make them with the intention of causing some sort of harm (financial or otherwise) to the target of your speech.
Lawyers prosecuting Jones for promoting the theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a conspiracy, successfully demonstrated that Jones knew what he was saying was false, and that his followers were threatening and attacking grieving families and survivors of the massacre as a direct result of his inflammatory rhetoric. None of that is protected by the First Amendment.
At Lubin Austermuehle, we help clients navigate the complex laws and emotionally charged pathways to a court victory or settlement in slander and libel cases, as well as a vast range of other disputes from class action suits to breach of contract. We serve clients throughout Chicagoland from Waukegan, to Skokie and beyond. You can contact us online here or call us at 630-333-0333. Take advantage of our FREE consultation, where we can discuss your specific needs and wishes and our ability to meet them.