Porter said he spent “considerable time” reviewing the motions for reimbursement, filed in March after the Johnsons withdrew their $100 million wrongful death lawsuit that accused the Bell brothers of killing Kendrick. Despite alibis backed up by witnesses and video surveillance, Brian and Branden Bell were targeted by federal investigators but no charges were ever brought.
The Johnsons’ suit alleged that virtually every entity involved in the investigation into their son’s death conspired to protect the Bell brothers, whose father is an FBI agent. The alleged conspirators included the daughters of Lowndes school superintendent Wes Taylor, who, according to the wrongful death suit, discovered Kendrick’s body as planned.
“I’m satisfied with the ruling and looking forward to our counterclaim against the Johnsons,” Karen Bell, Brian and Branden’s mother, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.
That countersuit, alleging libel and slander, seeks $1 million in damages.
“Since January 12, 2014, the Johnsons used others as their authorized agents to post messages on various social media, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, instant messaging, and the like, that were defamatory of the Bells,” the counterclaim states.
A hearing on how much the Johnsons will be forced to pay attorneys for the defendants is scheduled for Monday. The motions filed by the Bells and the Lowndes County sheriff and school system requested $900,000.
The ruling will likely preclude the Johnsons from refiling the wrongful death suit by the Sept. 1 deadline, as they had planned.
Though their legal options appear to be dwindling, the Johnsons still have plenty of support.
A spokesman for the family did not respond to a request for comment, but in a Facebook post Jackie Johnson said Thursday’s ruling was just the latest attempt to “forever silence (Kendrick’s) parents.” They are urging supporters to “pack the courthouse” for Monday’s hearing.