Skip to comments.Lawyer Doubts Case Against Anthrax Suspect
Posted on 03/10/2010 2:18:17 PM PST by Justice Department
Just weeks before government scientist Bruce Ivins' suicide, a grand jury was convening on the third floor of the federal courthouse, near the U.S. Capitol, looking into the 2001 anthrax murders. Things weren't looking good for Ivins, the only suspect in the case.
It was July 2008. His attorney, Paul F. Kemp, according to court documents reviewed by AOL News, had just filed court papers to become a death-penalty-certified attorney in the case -- a little-known fact. And the chief U.S. District judge in Washington, Royce C. Lamberth, had approved the request.
"I thought this was a precaution to take. My job is to anticipate anything," Kemp said.
He said he had told Ivins the investigation could turn into a death penalty case. "At some point in the near future I felt the government was probably going to the grand jury and would issue an indictment."
What Kemp -- and the government as well -- didn't anticipate was the unthinkable. On July 27, Ivins, 62, loaded up on Tylenol with codeine in a suicide bid. Two days later, he died.
"I was disturbed over it," Kemp said in an interview this week . "I never had a client commit suicide. It's a terrible experience. I'm much more distraught for his family."
With the suicide, so died the chance for the government to prove its case before a jury or for Ivins to prove his innocence. No charges were ever filed in the case, in which letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to five media outlets and two senators. Five people died and 17 others were sickened.
On Feb. 19, the Justice Department officially closed the case and issued a 92-page summary stating why Ivins not only did it, but acted alone. It concluded that his lab notes showed he "could, and did, create spores of the concentration and purity of the mailed spores."
Kemp, a suburban Washington attorney, said he read the report, but didn't buy into it. Not at all.
Kemp said Ivins repeatedly denied that he sent the letters or that he developed the deadly anthrax spores. And Kemp cited Ivins' fellow scientists, who insisted he was incapable of making such a high-grade, dried anthrax with the equipment available at his workplace at the Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md.
"There's not one shred of evidence to show he did it," Kemp said.
Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., echoes some of that skepticism. Last week, he called for a congressional investigation into the anthrax probe.
"We don't know whether the FBI's assertions about Dr. Ivins' activities and behavior are accurate," Holt wrote in a letter to the chairmen of the House Committees on Homeland Security, Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Government Reform.
Government investigators disagree with the skeptics.
"Suggestions that this is an entirely circumstantial case are not accurate," said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman. "We are confident Dr. Ivins acted alone in carrying out this attack. There is the direct physical evidence. The murder weapon was created by Dr. Ivins and solely maintained by Dr. Ivins.
"We wish we had the opportunity to present this case and all the evidence to a jury, but we were not able to, given the circumstances."
A Justice Department source familiar with the case insisted Ivins was "singularly capable" of producing the deadly product. The person said investigators spent an "extraordinary amount of time" researching who in the science world was capable of producing the high-grade anthrax used in the deadly letters and "Dr. Ivins came up as one of the pre-eminent anthrax researchers."
Regardless, in his final weeks Ivins had been thinking about the prospect of facing the death penalty. News reports said that during a July 9, 2008, group therapy session, he mentioned that if he faced the death penalty he would go out with a blaze of glory and shoot some of his co-workers.
Kemp acknowledges the government contacted him in the final weeks to say they were concerned about Ivins' state of mind and well-being.
To many in the public, Ivins' suicide was viewed as an admission of guilt. But others -- particularly some who knew him -- saw a man who collapsed under the mighty weight of a government determined to indict him.
Kemp says he still thinks about the suicide and wonders if he couldn't have conveyed the prospect of a death-penalty case to Ivins more gently. He won't get into specifics of the conversations with Ivins, citing client-attorney privilege. But he does share this much.
"I question myself. Maybe I was too strong," he said. "I second-guess a lot the wording I used."
A simple review of the files screams it was the guy...
My reading of the evidence was that it was weak and relied upon coincidence and circumstance. They seemed to have much less evidence against Ivins than they had against Hatfill - the previous one they tried to fit up.
There is not any evidence, I repeat any, that he did it.
This is the same FBI team that blame two other scientists for the crime as well before they had to pay out multi-million dollar settlements for ruining their lives.
“Scientist Is Paid Millions by U.S. in Anthrax Suit
The Justice Department announced Friday that it would pay $4.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army biodefense researcher intensively investigated as a person of interest in the deadly anthrax letters of 2001.”
For nearly seven years, scientist Bruce E. Ivins and a small circle of fellow anthrax specialists at Fort Detrick’s Army medical lab lived in a curious limbo: They served as occasional consultants for the FBI in the investigation of the deadly 2001 anthrax attacks, yet they were all potential suspects.
They hounded Ivins to death:
[...]colleagues and friends of the vaccine specialist remained convinced that Ivins was innocent: They contended that he had neither the motive nor the means to create the fine, lethal powder that was sent by mail to news outlets and congressional offices in the late summer and fall of 2001. Mindful of previous FBI mistakes in fingering others in the case, many are deeply skeptical that the bureau has gotten it right this time.
“I really don’t think he’s the guy. I say to the FBI, ‘Show me your evidence,’ “ said Jeffrey J. Adamovicz, former director of the bacteriology division at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases, or USAMRIID, on the grounds of the sprawling Army fort in Frederick. “A lot of the tactics they used were designed to isolate him from his support. The FBI just continued to push his buttons.”
Ivins did not have the wherewithal to make airborne anthrax:
[...]others, including former colleagues and scientists with backgrounds in biological weapons defense, disagreed that Ivins could have created the anthrax powder, even if he were motivated to do so.
“USAMRIID doesn’t deal with powdered anthrax,” said Richard O. Spertzel, a former biodefense scientist who worked with Ivins at the Army lab. “I don’t think there’s anyone there who would have the foggiest idea how to do it. You would need to have the opportunity, the capability and the motivation, and he didn’t possess any of those.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, whose office was a target of the anthrax attacks in 2001, said Sunday the suicide of the government’s main suspect does not mean the case is over.
Daschle said the FBI has not given him any new updates. He also raised questions about the quality of the investigation, noting that the government recently paid out almost $6 million to a former Army scientist, Steven Hatfill, who accused authorities of unfairly targeting him in the anthrax case.
“From the very beginning I’ve had real concerns about the quality of the investigation,” Daschle said in a broadcast interview. “Given the fact that they already paid somebody else $5 million for the mistakes they must have made gives you some indication of the overall caliber and quality of the investigation.”
Nope. Ivins worked with wet anthrax spores, not dry. To give large numbers of people inhalation anthrax, you need dry spores...and to get dry spores you need a spray dryer.
Ivins did not have access to a spray dryer. What he could do was create wet anthrax spores, but those cause cutaneous anthrax, not inhalation anthrax.
Those infected from the letters were done so by dry anthrax spores.
They did a very similar job on Hatfill - leaked very prejudical rumours about him to the media. But he was a stronger character, and faced them down.
Ivins seems to have committed suicide because they got hold of discreditable information about his sex life. He used to have a fetish for wearing women’s knickers, or something (and, therefore, he must be a bio-terrorist! YEAH!) He also used to buy pornographic pictures.
They were making all this public. He should have just faced them down, like that Flynt guy who publishes Hustler, and who said “America is the greatest country in the world, because America is the freest country in the world.”
Check out Marcia’s story.