Wrongly Accused Man Settles Bomb Suit
The federal government has agreed to pay an Oregon lawyer $2 million to settle part of a lawsuit he filed after the FBI misidentified a fingerprint and wrongly arrested him in the 2004 Madrid terrorist bombings.
"The pain and torture and humiliation that this (case) has caused my family is hard to put into words," Brandon Mayfield said after the settlement was announced Wednesday.
Mayfield was arrested in May 2004 on the basis of a fingerprint found on a bag of detonators in Madrid that was mistakenly matched to him after the March 11, 2004, train bombings that killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,500. Mayfield was jailed on a material witness warrant but was released after the FBI acknowledged the fingerprint was not his.
Mayfield, who was detained for two weeks, and his wife, Mona, maintained that he was arrested because of his Muslim faith.
"We are Muslims. We are American. We are patriotic," Mona Mayfield said. "We are unhappy with the current administration stripping away our rights."
The local FBI office said it was proud of its work in the case, and disagreed Mayfield's religion was a factor because it was discovered after the fingerprint identification, said agent Robert Jordan.
"If a similar investigation was being conducted, and we were provided a fingerprint identification, we would do exactly what we did in the case of Mr. Mayfield," Jordan said. "Of course we regret what happened to Mr. Mayfield, but again, we are proud of what we did here."
The government did not admit liability or fault but issued a formal apology to Mayfield as part of the settlement, said Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos.
The FBI has since adopted suggestions for improving its fingerprint identification process "to ensure that what happened to Mr. Mayfield does not happen again," Scolinos said.
Two internal Justice investigations cleared the FBI and prosecutors of wrongdoing, she said. A December 2005 review by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility found that federal prosecutors who handled the investigation acted appropriately.
A month later, Justice Inspector General Glenn A. Fine concluded that Mayfield's faith was not the reason the FBI began its investigation, and that the agency did not misuse provisions of the USA Patriot Act.
The government acknowledged in the settlement that it "performed covert physical searches of the Mayfield home and law office, and it also conducted electronic surveillance targeting Mr. Mayfield at both his home and law office," according to a news release from Mayfield's attorney, Elden Rosenthal.
The settlement allows Mayfield to continue to pursue his challenge of the USA Patriot Act, Rosenthal said. Mayfield claims the act violates the Fourth Amendment because it allows government searches without probable cause that a crime has been committed.
"I look forward to the day the Patriot Act is declared unconstitutional, and all citizens are safe from unwarranted arrest and searches by the federal government," Mayfield said in a statement.
Associated Press writers Anne M. Peterson in Portland and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington contributed to this report.
Woohoo! This is a decent victory in the fight against tyranny...the patriot act.