Part of the colorful legend of antivirus software pioneer John McAfee, now seeking the presidential candidacy of the Libertarian Party, is the still unsolved 2012 murder of Gregory Faull, a neighbor in Belize.
The Belizean government wanted to question McAfee in relation to the murder. McAfee insists he had nothing to do with it, and that the Belizean government's harassment of him (which began prior to Faull's death) was about his refusal to kowtow to bribery, not any actual belief he was a criminal.
The story of McAfee's Belizean adventures and travails is told at length in one of the ur-sources of the modern McAfee legend, Joshua Davis' 2012 Wired profile. (If you read it you will not be surprised to hear it was optioned for a movie by Warner Bros., a movie still unmade.)
In 2013, Faull's estate filed a wrongful death suit against McAfee (and initially two other parties, who have since been dropped from the suit). That got some press, and some reaction from McAfee, back then. He continues to insist he had nothing to do with Faull's death.
The suit's current status? After continued failure to serve McAfee on a second amended version of the suit over the past year, U.S. Magistrate Judge Karla R. Spaulding for U.S. District Court in the middle district of Florida declared in an April ruling that unless by May 10 the plaintiff "shall show cause in writing why this case should not be dismissed for failure to serve Defendant" the case would be dismissed.
Joseph A. Wolsztyniak, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, says today that they are awaiting a decision on a motion they filed to allow what their documents show as a successful December 2014 service on an earlier version of the suit, not the most recent amended one, to stand and to proceed with the case.
Judge Spaulding wrote in the April ruling mentioned above that in an earlier version of the amended complaint, the plaintiffs "failed to plead sufficient facts to establish that McAfee was liable."
The most recent amended complaint does lay out a narrative claiming that McAfee, or possibly just his associates with his complicity, committed the murder of Faull, though it doesn't lay out its reasons or evidence for believing that story is true. Wolsztyniak says he cannot speak to details of the case not already in the public record of filings, and he's instructed his clients not to either.
The Faull estate's wrongful death suite was re-publicized in the context of McAfee's L.P. campaign this week with a story on the website A Libertarian Future, and people supporting his opponents' campaigns have been raising questions about whether this should make Libertarians think twice about nominating the controversial McAfee.
McAfee today emailed me some of his thoughts and observations about the suit and the politics of the suit. Below are excerpts, not all in the original order in which he wrote them, from what he told me:
Let me make this perfectly clear: I had nothing whatsoever to do with Gregory Faul's death.
America is the most litigious nation on the planet. 80% of the world's lawyers live in America and 15 million lawsuits are filed in the U.S. every year. Prominent people in America all suffer under this system. 95% of of all lawsuits are filed against people who are perceived to have money. Why? Suing people has become a profession for many people who do not wish to work….
Myself and my various agencies have been sued more than 200 times. Among these lawsuits have been two wrongful death lawsuits—potentially the most lucrative class of lawsuits for the plaintiffs.
The first wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of a man who was killed in a plane crash in which my nephew, Joel Bitow, was the pilot, and who was also killed. My nephew ran a flight school, and the school leased a piece of property owned by me. I was sued for wrongful death, basically, for owning the property on which the flight school was located and for being instrumental in urging my nephew to follow his passion—flying. The jury awarded the plaintiffs 2.5 million dollars. The family also sued the airplane manufacturer and 15 other agencied for wrongful death in the accident. Each if the other agencies settled for unspecified amounts.
Regarding that plane crash suit, McAfee added in response to a follow-up question:
I am still negotiating the amount. I consider such judgements in this specific situation (owning the property on which the airplane took off), to be immoral, unjust and unconstitutional. I resist them.
Various filings from Faull's estate's lawyers contain colorful details of alleged McAfee attempts to evade past service on the suit, including accusations of having a private investigator sent to serve papers "threatened with serious bodily injury if he entered onto Mr. McAfee's property" and of McAfee supplying an address in Montreal "which ended up being in the middle of an intersection."
McAfee's response to those points in our email exchange:
All of my properties are posted as private property, and any trespasser will be threatened with arrest, whether or not they are private detectives. I certainly neither threatened the man nor even spoke to him. As to an adress in the middle of an interection—how would a person even write down such an address? It is impossible. The middle of intersections do not have addresses. Please sir—I am a busy man. Had you given any thought, you could have divined the absurdity of this specific allegations.
(In my defense, I presumed the lawyers meant "a nonexistent address in between real addresses which were on either end of a road crossing," but point taken.)
When asked whether, even if he had nothing to do with Faull's death, the suit's very existence was a political liability that should concern Libertarians deciding whether to choose him for their presidential slot, McAfee reminded me of the facts he'd written earlier about how many frivolous lawsuits are filed in the United States, and emphasized that "A wrongful death lawsuit may be filed against anyone, for any reason in this country. Over 20,000 of them are filed in this country every year."
Further, McAfee notes that he sees his stance in the Faull suit as one Libertarians should see as exemplary rather than troublesome:
I never spoke with anyone representing the Faul suit about anything whatsoever. I am not required to co-operate with anyone attempting to extort me, which is exactly what this suit is. Most lawsuits never go to trial. Instead the defendents, in order to avoid the enormous costs of defending such suits (it cost me 3.2 million dollars to defend my first wrongful death lawsuit, in addition to the judgement), simply settle them. These lawsuits nearly always count on the defendents' co-operation in their own extortion. This system must stop. It is one of the greatest perversions within our government and the legal system it has created.
McAfee says he is working on an article on his own about this suit, which he expects to appear in Newsweek soon.