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The end of Infowars? Judge to decide fate of Alex Jones’ conspiracy empire in Sandy Hook families’ quest for justice

Analysis by Oliver Darcy, CNN

New York (CNN) — Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. Sign up for the daily digest chronicling the evolving media landscape here.

Alex Jones’ conspiracy empire is on the brink.

The fate of the right-wing extremist’s Infowars outlet could be decided on Friday as a Texas bankruptcy court hears a high-stakes motion filed by the families of the Sandy Hook victims over whether to liquidate the company.

The families, who have yet to see a penny of the approximately $1.5 billion in judgments they are owed, have argued to the court that there is “no prospect” the company can produce a proper reorganization plan under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After years of waiting, they have asked the court to liquidate Jones’ Free Speech Systems, the parent of Infowars.

If the judge rules in favor of Sandy Hook families, Infowars would be shuttered. In such a scenario, a court-appointed trustee would be tasked with securing the assets and then selling off Jones’ media empire, including the website, studio space, and broadcasting equipment.

“Infowars would no longer exist,” Christopher Mattei, an attorney who represents some of the Sandy Hook families, explained this week to CNN’s Hadas Gold.

The process could play out quickly, denying Jones the megaphone he has used for decades to spread dangerous and hateful conspiracy theories. Since founding Infowars in the late 1990s, Jones has poisoned the public discourse with toxic commentary, most notably pushing the lie that the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, shooting was a so-called “false flag” operation staged by the government and that the grieving family members of 20 child victims were “actors.” Jones, who hawks high-priced dietary supplements to his audience, has used the lies to enrich himself to the tune of millions of dollars.

While juries in Texas and Connecticut punished Jones, awarding the Sandy Hook families hundreds of millions of dollars, the radical host has been able to continue operating his conspiracy empire after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Jones, who also filed for personal bankruptcy protection, moved to liquidate his personal assets last week, meaning that even if the judge does not order such a move for his company, it will ultimately mean he no longer owns Infowars in the future.

While it’s possible that the liquidation of Jones’ company, if ordered by the court on Friday, could lead to its ultimate demise, a court-appointed trustee could opt to sell the company to a potential buyer. Perhaps a fellow conspiracy theorist, such as Tucker Carlson, who is trying to gain traction with his own media startup, would be interested in purchasing the assets. But the attorneys representing Sandy Hook families expect that the most likely scenario is Jones’ Infowars empire will be sold off, piece by piece, with the proceeds going to their clients.

The outlet’s potential demise is the latest instance in which the legal system is holding right-wing media outlets accountable for their lies. Companies operated by dishonest conspiracy profiteers rarely — if ever — admit to wrongdoing unless they are either threatened by or face legal action, leaving the courts the only real avenue for victims of lies to correct the public record.

In the last year, Fox News paid a historic $787.5 million settlement to voting technology company Dominion Voting Systems. The Gateway Pundit filed for bankruptcy protection. One America News settled a case with voting technology company Smartmatic. Salem Media Group apologized for and stopped distributing an election denialist documentary from Dinesh D’Souza. And several cases are still pending in the legal system.

While the wheels of the legal system turn slowly, they have been proven to be effective in helping victims recoup some of the damages for the lies. Of course, no monetary award can ever heal the wounds inflicted by the reprehensible lies Jones told about Sandy Hook, dishonoring the children massacred that day and tormenting their families for years. But the liquidation of Jones’ assets will represent some progress.

“If the judge ordered Alex Jones’ business to be liquidated… that will be a moment the families can take some pride in,” Mattei said. “Their objective has long been to protect their families and other families from the type of harm that Alex Jones inflicted on them for years.”

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