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Federal Court holds Syria liable for zombie-like trance

February 1, 2013

This week Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola issued an opinion in the DC district court regarding terrorist attacks in European airports in 1985. See also Wikipedia: Rome and Vienna airport attacks.

ESTATE OF JOHN BUONOCORE III, et al., Plaintiffs,
v. GREAT SOCIALIST PEOPLE’S LIBYAN ARAB JAMAHIRIYA, et al., Defendants.

VICTOR SIMPSON, et al., Plaintiffs,
v. GREAT SOCIALIST PEOPLE’S LIBYAN ARAB JAMAHIRIYA, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. 06-727 (JMF), Civil Action No. 08-529 (JMF)

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Decided January 29, 2013, opinion by Magistrate Judge Facciola:

Currently pending and ready for resolution are two actions brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1602 et seq.: 1) Buonocore v. Great Socialist People’s Libyan Jamahiriya, Civil Action No. 06-727, originally filed on April 21, 2006, but amended on March 28, 2008, and again on April 2, 2010 (only as to plaintiff Juliet Sweis); and 2) Simpson v. Great Socialist People’s Libyan Jamahiriya, Civil Action No. 08-529, originally filed on March 27, 2008, but amended on April 2, 2010. The named Libyan defendants were dismissed from each of these actions by Judge Kessler, pursuant to the enactment of the Libya Claims Resolution Act, Pub. L. No. 110-301, 122 Stat. 2999 (2008). Plaintiffs’ claims remain pending against the following defendants: 1) the Syrian Arab Republic; 2) the Syrian Air Force Intelligence agency (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-Jawiyya); and 3) Syria’s Director of Military Intelligence (General Muhammad al-Khuli) (hereinafter collectively the “Syrian defendants” or “Syria”).

FINDINGS OF FACT:

A. Syria is a State Sponsor of Terrorism

1. Prior to the December 27, 1985 attacks, and continuing to the present time, terrorism was, and remains, an integral tool for the Syrian regime.

and

B. The ANO is a Foreign Terrorist Organization

C. Syria Sponsored and Supported the ANO

D. The ANO Perpetrated the Rome and Vienna Airport Attacks

The plaintiffs in this case are the families and estates of American victims of these airport attacks, of which one is:

The Buonocore Family

1. John Buonocore, III

128. John Buonocore, III (“John III”) was born in New York, New York, on February 16, 1965. (Ex. 30)

129. At the time of his murder, John III was a United States citizen. (Ex. 31; T. Buonocore, T-23-10)

130. John III’s biological father was John Buonocore, Jr. (“John Jr.”). (Ex. 30; T. Buonocore, T-23-8)

131. John III’s biological mother was Cecile Buonocore (“Cecile”), whose birth name was Cecile Hall. (Ex 30; T. Buonocore, T-23-8)

132. John III’s only sibling is Todd Buonocore (“Todd”). (T. Buonocore, T-23-8).

Regarding the distress from the attacks

143. Todd testified that his mother had difficulty sleeping and that “she is worried about violence, worried about break-ins, worried about [Todd] traveling.” (T. Buonocore, T-22B-35)

144. Todd testified that when his father heard the news, “[h]e went into their bedroom and basically rolled up into a cocoon, not to be heard from again for—he was in a zombie-like trance for days and days and days.” (T. Buonocore, T-22B-25)

145. Todd testified that when he heard the news of John III’s death, he laid “on the couch almost in kind of a haze or fog” (T. Buonocore, T-23-25).

The court explains:

There are five elements of liability under the FSIA’s state-sponsored terrorism exception: “(1) ‘an act of torture, extrajudicial killing, aircraft sabotage, hostage taking, or provision of material support or resources for such an act’ where (2) the act was committed, or the provision provided, by the foreign state or agent of the foreign state, and the act (3) ’caused’ (4) ‘personal injury or death’ (5) ‘for which the courts of the United States may maintain jurisdiction under this section for money damages.'” Bodoff v. Islamic Republic of Iran,

and

In this case, the Court’s finding of Syrian liability is based on a theory of civil conspiracy … expert witnesses testified that the ANO would have been unable to accomplish the EgyptAir hijacking and the Rome and Vienna Airport attacks without Syrian aid.

So as to John Buonocore, III:

Dr. Markham calculated that, were it not for the shooting, John III would have had a life expectancy of 76.6 years of age. When he was killed, he was 20 years old and a junior in college. … I assume that John III would have obtained a graduate degree and would have worked fulltime until age 67, and hereby award economic damages to his estate in the amount of $2,182,163 in lost earnings and $205,962 in lost pension, for a total of $2,388,125.

And as to the family’s claims of solatium:

A claim of solatium seeks compensation for “the mental anguish, bereavement and grief that those with a close personal relationship to a decedent experience as a result of the decedent’s death … In recent cases, the framework used in Peterson II, 515 F. Supp. 2d at 52, has been used to calculate solatium damages. See Valore, 700 F. Supp. 2d at 85; Belkin, 667 F. Supp. 2d at 23. In Valore, the appropriate amount of solatium damages for the families of deceased victims was calculated as follows: $8 million to spouses of deceased victims, $5 million to parents of deceased victims, and $2.5 million to siblings of deceased victims.

So the zombie-like trance of John Buonocore, Jr., parent of deceased victim (John Buonocore III), is awarded $5 million. Also $5 million the mother and $2.5 to brother Todd. Plus there are punitive damages:

$150 million in punitive damages to each of the victims of the shooting and their families.

The court also recommends that prejudgment interest be computed at 7.03% per annum from December 27, 1985 to the present.

All totaled this appears to be a multi-multi-Billion dollar judgment against Syria.

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