Lawsuit over 9/11 attack dismissed

ROCHESTER, NY (AP)  — A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court ruling to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two organizations and several individuals trying to force the United States Attorney General’s Office to present their claims about the 9/11 terrorist attack to a federal grand jury.

In April 2018, the plaintiffs — Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry Inc., Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Richard Gage, Christopher Gioia, Diana Hetzel, Michael O’Kelly, Jeanne Evans, and Robert McIlvaine — submitted a petition to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York that contained information related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and asked to have the information presented to a grand jury.

In September 2019, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit seeking disclosure of grand jury records related to their petition and a court order compelling the U.S. Attorney to present the petition to a grand jury if they did not already do so.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul G. Gardephe dismissed the lawsuit for lack of standing and for failure to state a claim. In a decision written by Judge John M. Walker Jr. and released Friday the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed Gardephe’s ruling.

The plaintiffs believe that the collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers was caused, not by the impact of terrorist-flown airplanes or burning jet fuel, but by explosives planted in the basements or lobbies of the towers. And they want a grand jury to investigate, according to the 16-page decision.

In addition to the organizations, the plaintiffs include a firefighter who was involved in the recovery efforts at the World Trade Center, and family members of those who died because of the attacks.

In August 2019, the Lawyers’ Committee submitted the same information to the U.S. State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, which offers rewards for information leading to the arrest of terrorists.

“The district court held that plaintiffs did not have standing to compel defendants to present their petition to a grand jury and that plaintiffs failed to state a claim when seeking to force defendants to release information presented to a grand jury,” according to the decision.

“Plaintiffs assert various … theories to support standing. None have merit,” Gardephe wrote.

The plaintiffs also claimed that their First Amendment right to petition was violated by refusing to submit the petition to a grand jury.

“Plaintiffs here failed to establish that they have been constitutionally injured. The First Amendment right to petition the government does not inherently include a right to communicate directly with the grand jury,” the court wrote.

“Whether evidence is submitted to a grand jury is at the discretion of the prosecuting attorney. To hold otherwise would allow every person who submits any information to a U.S. Attorney’s office the ability to bring an action to force the U.S. Attorney to submit his materials to a grand jury,” Gardephe wrote.

“The First Amendment right was satisfied when plaintiffs presented their Petition to the U.S. Attorney. The First Amendment does not encompass the right to force a U.S. Attorney to present whatever materials a member of the public chooses to a grand jury,” he wrote.


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