By Ray O’Hanlon
Attorneys acting for Belfast engaged couple James Murray and Ruth Gould have filed a $101 million lawsuit in a New York federal court.
The suit arises from false accusations of terrorist links leveled at the couple, charges that resulted in both Murray and Gould being jailed in Las Vegas earlier this year.
The couple’s prison nightmare was first reported in the Echo last May. They were released without charge after spending a week in jail but then faced deportation proceedings.
The suit names as defendants Northrop Grumman Information Technology Inc. and its immediate parent company, Logicon Inc.
The suit on behalf of the couple, who are in the U.S. as a result of the Walsh visa program, accuses Northrop/Logicon, collectively Northrop, of negligence, causing personal injuries and breach of contract.
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According to court papers filed Tuesday with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Murray and Gould were “arrested, jailed and traumatized after being subjected to wildly false suggestions made to the United States government that, inter alia, they might be involved in hatching a Middle East-inspired terrorist plot against the United States.”
The suit also names Murray and Gould’s employer in Las Vegas, Steve Smith.
It alleges that in preparation for its false report to the government, Northrop had invited Smith, described in the suit as a “serial felon,” to put in writing several “malicious, retaliatory and inane statements that he had made to Northrop concerning Murray and Gould.”
Smith was convicted in a Las Vegas court recently of abducting a prostitute. He has also been the subject of separate investigations by law enforcement authorities in the Nevada city.
Murray and Gould, who have been granted a stay on deportation by a Las Vegas immigration judge, are now potential witnesses in the Las Vegas investigation of Smith. As such, they will likely be allowed remain in the U.S. for the foreseeable future despite having been designated by Northrop as being out of status with regard to the Walsh visa program.
Murray and Gould had traveled to Las Vegas last fall to work for Smith’s hang-gliding company.
The relationship with Smith turned sour when he failed to pay the couple for their work and Murray complained to Logicon, which is charged by the U.S. State Department with the task of assigning Walsh visa recipients to their jobs around the U.S.
The suit, filed by the law firm of Smith, Dornan and Shea, states that Smith’s statements included “bizarre and unfounded suggestions” that the plaintiffs had expressed a desire to open a business in Yemen, had expressed views opposing United States policy and had never actually worked for Smith’s company, Las Vegas Airsports.
The suit alleges that Smith never directly accused Murray and Gould of any involvement with terrorism “and unlike Northrop, he did not dare to report any such false conclusion to the government, presumably because he had no evidence to support such a conclusion.”
The suit accuses Northrop of not dismissing Smith’s unsupported insinuations as “malicious, fantastic or ridiculous,” or of investigating them; rather, it alleged, Northrop had “initiated a man-hunt and ultimately arranged for the arrest, detention and unlawful incarceration of Murray and Gould by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
The suit states that Northrop, the appointed administrator of the Walsh visa program, was under a statutory duty of care to Murray and Gould.
The suit alleges that Northrop failed to honor its statutory obligation to investigate the bona fides of Smith or his “outlandish” allegations.
The suit further states: “When the insinuations of terrorist activity were quickly found to be entirely without merit, Northrop, rather than correcting the very serious and damaging assertions it made to the INS and the Department of State, instead continued to propound Smith’s other false charges, resulting in the Plaintiffs’ impending deportation.
“In so doing,” the suit alleges, “Northrop, which had brought the Plaintiffs to the United States under the promise of a glimpse of the America dream, instead delivered them into a nightmare.”
The suit, which demands a jury trial, is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $1 million and punitive or exemplary damages in excess of $100 million.