Tort Law

Scientist to Get $5.8M Settlement from DOJ in Anthrax Case

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Steven Hatfill, a former Army scientist who says the government violated his privacy rights and damaged his reputation by leaking investigative details to reporters about his role as a “person of interest” in 2001 anthrax attacks, has won a $5.8 million settlement from the Department of Justice.

According to court documents filed today in his federal lawsuit, “the settlement calls for the government to make an immediate $2.82 million payment to Hatfill. Beginning in 2009, the government will pay Hatfill an additional annuity of $150,000 a year for 20 years, according to court papers,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

Although it agreed to the settlement, the government doesn’t admit liability in the case. The anthrax attacks, which were centered on the Washington, D.C., area and killed five, sent hundreds in search of medical treatment and disrupted mail service in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, remain unsolved.

The DOJ says the settlement was in the country’s best interest, reports the Associated Press.

“We took this case to defend very fundamental principles of fairness,” Thomas Connolly, Hatfill’s lawyer, tells the Times, saying that his client will not comment on the settlement. “Whether we succeeded or not is for others to determine.”

Adds Mark Grannis, another lawyer for Hatfill, “If anybody in the country really knew what it was like to be Steven Hatfill for the past six years, nobody would trade places with him.”

The settlement will probably also conclude an ongoing contempt case against reporter Toni Locy for resisting efforts to find out about her sources for USA Today anthrax coverage, says the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in a press release.

“Although it has not been confirmed by the appellate court, the settlement should mean that the appeal of the contempt order against former USA Today reporter Toni Locy is now moot,” the press release states. “Attorneys for Hatfill have notified the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where the appeal was pending, that they no longer need [her] testimony.”

Related coverage:

CNN: “Scientist’s anthrax lawsuit settled for $2.8 million” (March 2008): “Appeals Court Blocks $5K a Day Fines Against Reporter”

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