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Aaron Brown, better known by his previous Twitter identity @UCI_Overlord, has lost a class action lawsuit taken on behalf of the donors to the Kimmage Fund, and has been ordered to repay the fund plus any additional costs which arose due to the legal case.
The Massachusetts Superior Court held a final pre-trial conference on Tuesday and, according to the person who took the class suit, Bill Hue, Brown was found to be in default.
“The whole liability case against Aaron is over and he has been found liable,” Hue told CyclingTips. “The only thing left is calculation of the damages.
“He didn’t come to the hearing. He never responded to any of the court orders. The court finally just ran out of patience.”
The damages request will be filed on December 2, after which the judge will make a final determination about the exact amount owed.
Brown is the co-founder of the Cyclismas website and, together with former business partner Lesli Cohen, helped set up a fund to help the journalist Paul Kimmage after former UCI presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid initiated legal action against him in 2012.
There was a very high response to the fund and slightly over $92,000 was given by donors from around the world.
However in May 2013 it emerged that Brown had taken control of the fund and was refusing to hand it over to either Kimmage or his former Cyclismas business partner, Lesli Cohen. Repeated requests for an accounting to prove the fund still existed were ignored and a class action suit was initiated by Bill Hue last September.
Hue was himself a donor to the fund. He also works as a Wisconsin judge, and was told in January by a Massachusetts court that he had been given a green light to represent the Class, namely the other donors. Cohen also pursued her own case.
In the same month the court ordered the fund frozen and commanded Brown and his attorney to provide an accounting and statement of whereabouts of the fund by February 25th. This was not complied with; in addition to that, Brown disobeyed court orders and issued refunds to at least two donors.
On July 9th he was found in contempt of court. In that initial ruling, the judge handling the case, David Ricciardone, said that the court had concluded, “that there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant violated a clear and unequivocal order to provide information regarding the whereabouts of the funds and not to make disbursements.”
Brown was given an additional 30 days to comply with the request to provide full details of the location of the fund. He did not do so. He also ignored an instruction by the judge to pay Cohen her costs and attorney’s fees to the amount of $11,169.16.
The court set a final pre-trial conference date for this month but as Brown didn’t respond to correspondence or show up for the hearing, the judge ruled that he was in default.
Hue explained the detail’s of Tuesday’s ruling. “What they said is that he has the money, he wrongfully took the money, and he is responsible for taking the money. We have been granted that judgement. Now it is just a matter of figuring out how much money he took and how much the costs are and attorneys’ fees and all that stuff.”
Hue estimates that Brown will be instructed to hand over a sum of between 60 to 70 thousand dollars plus. He must also turn over Cohen’s legal fees.
Given that he has been living in Europe, the obvious question is how the ruling will be enforced. According to Hue, the judgement can be docketed internationally via the Hague Convention.
“What we would do is we would find people in the various countries who he owes money to, who gave to the Kimmage Fund. They can docket that judgement in their country, and we could authorise them to execute on that judgement.
“Of course we will also execute in Canada, docket in Canada, and here in the United States we will have a docketed judgement. If he ever resurfaces anywhere where we could find him, if one of those judgement is docketed in those countries, then we would be able to execute on it if he has any money.”
Hue said that if the money has already been spent, that his wages from future work could potentially be garnished. In addition to that, he believes it will be possible to pursue assets Brown owns.
Hue states that lawyers from various countries have already contacted him offering to help have the judgement docketed. He has called on people willing to do that in various countries to contact him via his firstname.lastname@example.org address. He also calls on anyone with knowledge of Brown’s current or recent whereabouts to get in contact with him.
“We have a judgement against him and we are going to docket this judgement wherever we can,” he said. “If he is in a certain country and there are earnings there or assets there, then once this is docketed in those courts, a request will be made to take the money or assets from him.
“He of course would have an opportunity to respond in that court. I don’t know what he would say, because I believe this judgement is 100 percent bulletproof.”
Brown previously did not reply to requests for comment made by CyclingTips, choosing not to respond to a series of questions put to him in August.
– “The many questions about the Kimmage defence fund” by Shane Stokes for VeloNation (May 4, 2013)
– “Court order in class action case compels Aaron Brown to provide full details of Kimmage defence fund” by Shane Stokes for VeloNation (February 1, 2014)
– “The ongoing saga of the Paul Kimmage defence fund: Hue to try to get arrest warrant for Brown”