Federal judge in Raleigh orders Syria to pay $1.1 billion to victims of terror

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  • A federal judge in Raleigh has ordered the Syrian government to pay more than $1.1 billion to victims of ISIS terrorist attacks that took place from 2015 to 2017.
  • Among those who would collect money from the judgment are former U.S. Ambassador Jim Cain, his wife, and his daughter.
  • U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle ruled that Syria "deserves unadorned condemnation" for its support of terror.

The Syrian government would be forced to pay more than $1.1 billion to victims of ISIS terrorist attacks from 2015 to 2017, under an order issued Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Raleigh. Among the beneficiaries would be former U.S. Ambassador Jim Cain, his wife, and his daughter.

“When a state such as Syria chooses to use terror as a policy tool that state forfeits its sovereign immunity and deserves unadorned condemnation,” according to a 202-page document explaining Judge Terrence Boyle’s decision. “Barbaric acts like those alleged in this action have no place in civilized society and represent a moral depravity that knows no bounds.”

“In stark contrast to the terrorist thugs and their Syrian sponsors stand the courageous Plaintiffs in this action, who have resolved to fight injustice with whatever tools are at their disposal, and their patient determination in this case is a credit to both them and to the memory of their decedents,” Boyle added.

“This Court hopes that the Plaintiffs may take some measure of solace in this Court’s final judgment.”

Families and survivors of terrorist attacks from November 2015 to January 2017 filed suit against the Syrian Arab Republic in 2020 under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The attacks took place in Istanbul, Paris, Brussels, and Jerusalem. Plaintiffs presented evidence in federal court of “Syria’s material support to ISIS, as well as ISIS’s responsibility for the terror attacks,” Boyle wrote.

Among the victims of ISIS attacks was Alexander Pinczowski, husband of Anne Cameron Cain Baarbé. Her father, Jim, had served as U.S. ambassador to Denmark under President George W. Bush. Jim Cain also served as president of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Boyle’s document explained how a 2016 terrorist attack affected the Cains. “On March 22, 2016, Cameron woke up to a BBC alert on her cell phone that there had been a terror attack at the Brussels airport with several deaths. Alexander’s mother called Cameron and told her that she was not able to reach him on his phone.”

“Alexander was at the Brussels airport to board a plane to New York to accompany Cameron to a wedding in North Carolina,” according to the document. “Cameron thought Alexander was not available because he was helping other people, but as the hours passed that day Cameron was overwhelmed with fear and dread. Cameron was frantic to locate Alexander and his sister, Sascha, who was traveling to New York City with Alexander that day to visit friends.”

Cameron and her parents flew to Brussels the next day. By March 25, they learned Pinczowski and his sister were dead. “It was highly traumatic and emotional for Cameron to search for Alexander and Sacha,” the document explained. “Cameron went through a very public anguish and torment as the news covered the attack and her search for Alexander and Sacha.”

The widow saw her husband’s body in a Brussels morgue on March 25. “Alexander had sustained a head gash and his legs were badly injured in the bombing blast,” Boyle’s document added. “Cameron had nightmares for months about Alexander’s injuries. That image still haunts Cameron to this day.”

“Plaintiffs subsequently learned that Alexander and Sascha were killed in the first of the two bomb blasts that occurred in the Zaventum Airport, the bomb being detonated directly behind Alexander while he and Sascha were standing in line at a Delta Airlines ticket counter.”

Of the total amount of damages Boyle awarded to plaintiffs, $900 million covered punitive damages for six families, including Cameron Cain Baarbé and her parents. Each family would collect $150 million. Boyle awarded Cameron an additional $17.2 million in compensatory damages. Her late husband’s estate would collect $1.3 million. Boyle awarded each parent $3.3 million.

“The purpose of punitive damages is two-fold: to punish those who engage in outrageous conduct and to deter others from similar conduct in the future,” according to Boyle’s document.

“[T]he Court finds an award of punitive damages is warranted,” the judge added. “First, Syria’s support for ISIS’ terrorist activities is horrific and condemnable. Second, the Defendant clearly intended to cause significant harm in multiple ways when it provided material support to ISIS, a known terrorist organization that routinely carries out brutal attacks on innocent civilians. Third, prior damages have been awarded to deter Syria from related actions against civilians. … Fourth, prior awards of punitive damages against Syria have noted that Syria is a nation of significant wealth.”

Boyle’s order represented a default judgment against the Syrian government. It’s unclear if or how the Cains and other plaintiffs ever would collect the damages.

In 2017 Carolina Journal documented an earlier legal fight involving the Cains and the Brussels terror attack that killed the Pinczowskis. A federal court ultimately dismissed Cameron Cain Baarbé’s lawsuit against Twitter. She and other plaintiffs had accused the social media giant of enabling terrorist activity.