“Jones has failed in every way to serve as the fiduciary mandated by the Bankruptcy Code in exchange for the breathing spell he has enjoyed for almost a year. His time is up,” lawyers for the Sandy Hook families wrote.
The families’ lawyers offered Jones two options: either liquidate his estate and give the proceeds to creditors or pay them at least $8.5 million a year for 10 years — plus 50 percent of any income over $9 million per year.
During a court hearing in Houston, Jones’ personal bankruptcy lawyer, Vickie Driver, suggested Monday that the $85 million, 10-year settlement offer was too high and unrealistic for Jones to pay.
“There are no financials that will ever show that Mr. Jones ever made that … in 10 years,” she said.
In a new bankruptcy plan filed on Nov. 18, Free Speech Systems said it could afford to pay creditors about $4 million a year, down from an estimate earlier this year of $7 million to $10 million annually. The company said it expected to make about $19.2 million next year from selling the dietary supplements, clothing and other merchandise Jones promotes on his shows, while operating expenses including salaries would total about $14.3 million.
Personally, Jones listed about $13 million in total assets in his most recent financial statements filed with the bankruptcy court, including about $856,000 in various bank accounts.
Under the bankruptcy case orders, Jones had been receiving a salary of $20,000 every two weeks, or $520,000 a year. But this month, a court-appointed restructuring officer upped Jones’ pay to about $57,700 biweekly, or $1.5 million a year, saying he has been “grossly” underpaid for how vital he is to the media company.
Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Lopez on Monday rejected the $1.5 million salary, saying the pay raise didn’t appear to have been made properly under bankruptcy laws and a hearing needed to be held.
If Jones doesn’t accept the families’ offer, Lopez would determine how much he would pay the families and other creditors.
After 20 children and six educators were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, Jones repeatedly said on his show that the shooting never happened and was staged in an effort to tighten gun laws.
Relatives, of many but not all, of the Sandy Hook victims sued Jones in Connecticut and Texas, winning nearly $1.5 billion in judgments against him. In October, Lopez ruled that Jones could not use bankruptcy protection to avoid paying more than $1.1 billon of that debt.
Relatives of the school shooting victims testified at the trials about being harassed and threatened by Jones’ believers, who sent threats and even confronted the grieving families in person, accusing them of being “crisis actors” whose children never existed.
Jones is appealing the judgments, saying he didn’t get fair trials and his speech was protected by the First Amendment.