A Florida federal judge on Wednesday held that John McAfee, founder of the eponymous cybersecurity software company, is liable for the death of a man who owned a vacation home next to his in Belize.
U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell entered a default judgment in favor of the estate of Gregory Faull in a wrongful death suit accusing McAfee of being responsible for the 2012 murder of Faull, a Florida resident who owned and vacationed in a beachfront property next to McAfee. The Florida Wrongful Death Act suit claims McAfee hired a local person to kill Faull following the neighbors’ dispute over McAfee’s “pack of 8 to 12 aggressive dogs,” which were poisoned by an unknown individual.
Citing the Eleventh Circuit’s unpublished February opinion reviving the suit, Judge Presnell held that the estate's claims plausibly alleged wrongful death and ruled it was entitled to a default judgment as to liability. However, the judge rejected the estate’s request for a jury trial on damages, instead ordering that a bench trial be held in January to determine the issue.
McAfee was served with the amended complaint in 2016 while attending the Libertarian National Convention in his bid to be the party's presidential nominee, according to court papers. He failed to respond to the allegations or meet court-imposed deadlines on numerous occasions, and he has not retained counsel in the case, according to court records.
The suit in the long-running case was filed in 2013 and alleges that McAfee employed armed guards to patrol his property and intimidate individuals with whom he had disagreements, that he possessed numerous firearms and Tasers and that he kept a pack of vicious dogs on his property.
After Faull confronted McAfee about his dogs, McAfee threatened to kill him if he ever set foot on his property. A short time later, McAfee publicly stated that someone had poisoned his dogs, and the next day, Faull was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the head with signs of Taser injuries, according to the complaint. McAfee later fled Belize for Guatemala and faked a heart attack to secure passage back to the United States and avoid extradition to Belize, according to court papers.
In early 2017, Judge Presnell had denied a motion for default judgment, saying the allegations were not supported by the facts and denied the estate’s bid to amend the complaint because it would be futile.
But the Eleventh Circuit reversed the ruling in February, saying the allegations “plausibly state a wrongful death claim against McAfee under Florida law” for Faull’s death.
“The crucial question in determining whether or not a proposed amended complaint states a claim — and therefore whether the amendment would be futile — is whether the complaint ‘contains sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,’” it said. “The Estate has satisfied this standard.”
McAfee and an attorney for the Faull estate did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The estate is represented by Gary William Roberts of Gary Roberts & Associates PA.
Counsel information for McAfee was not available.
The case is Estate of Gregory Faull v. McAfee et al., case number 6:13-cv-01746, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
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