Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones cannot use personal bankruptcy to avoid paying at least $1.1 billion in defamation damages stemming from untruthful statements about the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, a U.S. bankruptcy judge ruled Thursday. Bankruptcy can be used to wipe out debts and legal judgments, but not if they result from "willful or malicious injury" caused by the debtor, said U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez in Houston. Courts in Connecticut and Texas have already ruled that Jones intentionally defamed relatives of school children killed in the mass shooting, and they have ordered him to pay $1.5 billion in damages, according to Reuters. Lopez ruled that more than $1.1 billion of those verdicts, awarded for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, cannot be wiped away in bankruptcy. He said that other parts of the verdicts, including $324 million in attorneys' fees, could possibly be discharged. Lopez will hold a trial to sort out the precise amount of the damages that could be discharged. Jones's attorneys argued that he had not lied and that his conduct was not malicious, saying that Jones "never said something on air that he did not believe to be true." Jones claimed for years that the 2012 killing of 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was staged with actors as part of a government plot to seize Americans’ guns. He has since acknowledged the shooting occurred, but plaintiffs said Jones profited off his lies for years about the massacre. Jones and his media company, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy protection in December and July last year, respectively. Jones could face two more defamation trials for plaintiffs who have not yet received a final judgment in their cases.
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