[Ppnews] U.S. Will Pay $2 Million to Lawyer Wrongly Jailed

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 30 13:52:57 EST 2006

November 30, 2006

U.S. Will Pay $2 Million to Lawyer Wrongly Jailed


WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 ­ The federal government 
agreed to pay $2 million Wednesday to an Oregon 
lawyer wrongly jailed in connection with the 2004 
terrorist bombings in Madrid, and it issued a 
formal apology to him and his family.

The unusual settlement caps a two-and-a-half-year 
ordeal that saw the lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, go 
from being a suspected terrorist operative to a 
symbol, in the eyes of his supporters, of 
government overzealousness in the war on terrorism.

“The United States of America apologizes to Mr. 
Brandon Mayfield and his family for the suffering 
caused” by his mistaken arrest, the government’s 
apology began. It added that the 
Bureau of Investigation, which erroneously linked 
him to the Madrid bombs through a fingerprinting 
mistake, had taken steps “to ensure that what 
happened to Mr. Mayfield and the Mayfield family does not happen again.”

At an emotional news conference in Portland 
announcing the settlement, Mr. Mayfield said he 
and his wife, an Egyptian immigrant, and their 
three children still suffered from the scars left 
by the government’s surveillance of him and his 
jailing for two weeks in May 2004.

“The horrific pain, torture and humiliation that 
this has caused myself and my family is hard to 
put into words,” said Mr. Mayfield, an 
American-born convert to Islam and a former lieutenant in the Army.

“The days, weeks and months following my arrest,” 
he said, “were some of the darkest we have had to 
endure. I personally was subject to lockdown, 
strip searches, sleep deprivation, unsanitary 
living conditions, shackles and chains, threats, 
physical pain and humiliation.”

Fingerprint examiners at the F.B.I. erroneously 
linked Mr. Mayfield to the terrorist bombings in 
Madrid through a mistaken identification of a 
print taken from a plastic bag containing 
detonator caps that was found at the scene of the 
bombings. The bombings, on March 11, 2004, killed 
191 people and left 2,000 injured in the 
deadliest terrorist attack in Europe since World War II.

Despite doubts from Spanish officials about the 
validity of the fingerprint match, American 
officials began an aggressive high-level 
investigation into Mr. Mayfield in the weeks 
after the bombings. The fact that he had 
represented a terrorism defendant in a 
child-custody case in Portland spurred further 
interest in him. Using expanded surveillance 
powers under the USA Patriot Act, the government 
wiretapped his conversations, conducted secret 
searches of his home and his law office and 
jailed him for two weeks as a material witness in 
the case before a judge threw out the case against him.

The settlement includes an unusual condition that 
frees the government from future liability except 
in one important area: Mr. Mayfield is allowed to 
continue a lawsuit seeking to overturn parts of 
the Patriot Act as a violation of the Fourth 
Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Several legal experts said they considered the 
settlement significant because of the public 
apology and the substantial payment.

“You almost never see something like this,” said 
Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence 
Project, a legal clinic in New York City. “It’s 
extraordinary, but the harm caused him was 
extraordinary. What I really think it speaks to 
is just how clearly the U.S. government crossed 
the line when it went after Mayfield.”

Suzanne Spaulding, a former lawyer with the 
Intelligence Agency who specializes in national 
security law, said that the terms of the 
settlement allowing Mr. Mayfield to continue his 
lawsuit over the Patriot Act were also significant.

“You’ve got to think that the Justice Department 
did not want to make that concession,” she said. 
“That and the two million dollars are further 
evidence that they were vulnerable and that he 
clearly had some significant leverage in these negotiations.”

Justice Department officials said they were 
confident that the legal foundation of the 
Patriot Act, including the surveillance and 
search provisions challenged by Mr. Mayfield, would hold up in court.

Although the F.B.I. has acknowledged serious 
missteps in the case, an investigation by the 
Justice Department inspector general released 
this year concluded that the government did not 
misuse its expanded counterterrorism powers under 
the Patriot Act and that Mr. Mayfield’s Muslim 
faith was not the reason he was initially 
investigated. Still, Mr. Mayfield continued to 
assert Wednesday that he and his family were a 
target “because of our Muslim religion.”

“Our freedom of religion in this country is a 
sacred right,” he said, “and the exercise of 
one’s beliefs in a lawful manner should never be 
a factor in a government’s investigation of any citizen.”

In Washington, the settlement was applauded by 
Representative John Conyers Jr., the Michigan 
Democrat who is expected to become the chairman 
of the House Judiciary Committee in January.

“The Mayfield case cries out for checks and 
balances on what has been, at times, an 
overzealous pursuit of innocent Americans,” Mr. 
Conyers said. “I am heartened that Mr. Mayfield 
has received this small measure of justice.”

Brian Libby contributed reporting from Portland, Ore.

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