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Lincoln County may sue Facebook, ‘Storm Area 51’ creators for funds

Updated September 16, 2019 - 10:46 pm

PIOCHE — The “Storm Area 51” events planned for Lincoln County this week will pile up a hefty bill, and officials could pursue legal action against Facebook and the original event organizers to recoup some of that.

“This money is no joke,” Cory Lytle, director of planning and building, said Monday. “We’re on a shoestring budget.”

Additionally, the county could look to press charges and seek restitution from event creator Matty Roberts and Brock Daily and anyone else who was pushing the “Storm Area 51” movement.

“Anybody who is promoting any illegal activity, we will be seeking to possibly prosecute,” said Dylan Frehner, Lincoln County district attorney.

The possible gross misdemeanor charge of publishing a matter in breach of peace or other crimes would carry up to a year in county jail and a $2,000 fine on top of the restitution sought, Frehner said.

Charges and restitution could be sought as early as next week, once the events are over and once the exact costs associated with working the event are known, Frehner said.

The legal action could include Facebook, where Roberts first proposed the event. His July social media post, which suggested the Air Force couldn’t stop a civilian invasion of the top-secret base long rumored to house extraterrestrial technology, was “liked” by millions and triggered planning throughout the state for a massive September gathering.

The county would seek to recover any money the state doesn’t match. Emergency Manager Eric Holt said the county is budgeting $250,000 for oversight of Alienstock, which takes place Thursday through Sunday in Rachel, and Area 51 Basecamp, occurring Friday through Sunday at the Alien Research Center in Hiko. The rural areas more than 100 miles north of Las Vegas lack the services and infrastructure to host a large event, let alone a pair of days-long festivals that could draw tens of thousands of people.

The money will come from interest accrued in the county’s land act fund, which has $785,000 available, according to county Recorder-Auditor Amy Elmer.

It’s uncertain whether the state will award any money to the county based on a pre-signed declaration of emergency, Holt said. Any grant money provided by the state would be capped at a maximum of 50 percent.

Holt said the county is budgeting $90,000 for meals to feed 350 attending first responders from at least 15 agencies, made up of state, local and private entities. Timbers Grill in Alamo was brought on to feed the responders.

Additional costs include $40,000 to $50,000 for personnel and travel, $36,000 for portable toilets and hand-washing stations, and $10,000 for fuel for emergency services. The balance would cover budget overruns.

Threats of legal action are nothing new with the festivals just days away.

Roberts and Daily issued a cease-and-desist letter to Connie West, owner of the Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, late Thursday stating that she could no longer to use the term Alienstock, and that they deemed the event canceled due to lack of preparation. Roberts earlier abandoned his planned affiliation with the Alienstock event in favor of an event in downtown Las Vegas. West and the organizers of Area 51 basecamp have insisted the events will still take place.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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