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Army Scientist Paid $5.8 Million to Settle Anthrax Accusations Defamation Suit

In 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft called Army scientist Steven Hatfill a "person of interest" in a deadly 2001 anthrax mailing case. Six years later, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) paid Hatfill $5.8 million to settle his lawsuit.

Just weeks after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, five people were killed and 17 became ill when anthrax was mailed to lawmakers in Washington D.C., and media outlets in New York and Florida.

Hatfill who worked at the Army's laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, in the late 1990s, was named as the prime suspect in the attack and placed under 24-hour surveillance.

In 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that Hatfill was a "person of interest" in the attack. Beginning in mid-2002 the media relentlessly hounded Hatfill, after television crews filmed FBI agents wearing biohazard suits searching his apartment. Yet Hatfill was never arrested or charged.

In 2003, Hatfill brought federal suit against FBI agents and DOJ officials involved in the criminal investigation, He alleged that Defendants leaked information about him to the media, in violation of the Privacy Act, destroyed his reputation and ruined his career.

On June 27, 2008, Defendants agreed to pay Hatfill a lump sum of $2.82 million and an annual annuity of $150,000 for 20 years, beginning in 2009, for a total settlement of $5.8 million, according to court papers.

Former federal prosecutors who are familiar with the investigation note that the settlement likely means that Hatfill will never be charged. Of course, a federal judge presiding over his lawsuit recently declared that there "is not a scintilla of evidence" linking Hatfill to the anthrax attack.

"Our government failed us, not only by failing to catch the anthrax mailers but by seeking to conceal that failure," said Hatfill's attorney. He also blamed journalists for their rush to judgment and failure to question the government's motives or tactics. "As an innocent man, and as our fellow citizen," said his attorney, "Steven Hatfill deserved far better." Source: The Seattle Times; The New York Times; Associated Press

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