US to pay $2.5M in anthrax death

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MIAMI (AP) — The U.S. government has agreed to pay $2.5 million to the widow and family of a Florida tabloid photo editor killed in the 2001 anthrax attacks.

A document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press shows that Maureen Stevens will drop all other claims stemming from the death of Robert Stevens. The document also says the U.S. is not admitting fault.

Stevens’ lawsuit, filed in 2003, claimed the government was negligent because it failed to stop someone at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., from creating weapons-grade anthrax used in letters that killed her husband and four other people. Seventeen more people were sickened.

Maureen Stevens’ attorney did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment. The settlement names her and her three grown children, and notes that attorneys’ fees of no more than 25 percent will be paid out of that amount.

Robert Stevens worked in Boca Raton for American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, Sun and Globe tabloids when he was exposed to anthrax. He died Oct. 5, 2001. Other anthrax-laced letters were mailed to television networks in New York and a U.S. Senate office building in Washington.

After a lengthy and unprecedented investigation, the FBI concluded that a government scientist, Dr. Bruce Ivins, was solely responsible for the attacks. Ivins, however, committed suicide in 2008 and some who worked with him at Fort Detrick have expressed doubt that he did it or had the means to create the anthrax used in the letters.

For years the FBI investigation focused on another scientist, Steven Hatfill, who was identified as a “person of interest” in 2001 by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Hatfill was eventually cleared and sued the government for invasion of privacy, resulting in a $5.8 million settlement.

Lawsuits filed by other victims have been dismissed, although at least one is on appeal.


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