The seven-page rebuttal denies all the more serious allegations in Murray and Gould’s lawsuit, which was filed recently with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Brooklyn.
That suit names as defendants Virginia-based 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.
The suit alleges that Murray and Gould were “arrested, jailed and traumatized after being subjected to wildly false suggestions made to the U.S. government that . . . they might be involved in hatching a Middle East-inspired terrorist plot against the United States.”
In its response, Northrop, through its New York-based attorneys, White and Case, said it “denies each and every” of the allegations concerning negligence, personal injuries and breach of contract.
In addition to naming Northrop, the suit also names Murray and Gould’s former 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 earlier this year of abducting a prostitute. He has also been the subject of separate investigations by law enforcement authorities in the Nevada city.
Northrop denies that it took a specific position on Smith’s allegations, though it admits to asking Smith to put his allegations about Murray and Gould down on paper.
Northrop further denies the allegation made in the suit that it “initiated a man-hunt and ultimately arranged for the arrest, detention and unlawful incarceration of the Plaintiffs by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.”
Murray and Gould traveled to Las Vegas in the fall of 2001 to work for Smith’s hang-gliding company. The relationship with Smith turned sour when he failed to pay the engaged 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 accuses Northrop of not dismissing Smith’s unsupported insinuations as “malicious, fantastic or ridiculous,” or of investigating them.
The suit states that Northrop, the appointed administrator of the Walsh visa program, was under a statutory duty to care for Murray and Gould. It alleges that Northrop failed to honor its statutory obligation to investigate the bona fides of Smith or his “outlandish” allegations.
Northrop denies this and only admits in its response to being “Program Administrator of the Program.”
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.”
Again, Northrop has denied these allegations in its court response.
In its “affirmative defense” Northrop argues that Murray and Gould “do not have standing” to sue under the Walsh Visa program. And in a position that could prove particularly contentious should the case go to trial, Northrop further states that Murray and Gould “were not bona fide participants” in the program at the time of the alleged wrongdoings.
Northrop asks the court to dismiss the complaint by the plaintiffs “in its entirety, with prejudice” and to “order that all costs be charged against the Plaintiffs and order such other relief as the court deems fair and appropriate.”
The attorneys from White and Case representing Northrop could not be contacted by presstime.
Murray and Gould’s suit, which specifically demands a jury trial, is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $1 million and punitive or exemplary damages in excess of $100 million.
Their attorney, Eamonn Dornan, said that an actual trial date is still months away.