The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge.
On March 15, 2000, the plaintiffs*fn1 filed a multi-count complaint
alleging that the defendants were responsible for Lawrence M. Jenco's
kidnapping, detention, and torture over a 1 1/2 year period. The
defendants, despite being properly served with process, failed to answer
this charge in any way. Thus, the Court entered the defendants' default
on January 5, 2001.
Notwithstanding this entry of default, a default judgment against a
foreign state may not be entered until the plaintiffs have "establishe[d]
[their] claim or right to relief by evidence that is satisfactory to the
Court." 28 U.S.C. § 1608(e). Thus, the Court held a bench trial to
receive evidence from the plaintiffs. Again, the defendants failed to
Based on the evidence presented to the Court, and the law applicable to
this case, the Court finds a default judgment merited. Further, the
Court awards appropriate compensatory relief. Finally, the Court finds
that the Estate of Fr. Jenco is entitled to punitive damages.
A. Father Jenco's Experience*fn2
In early 1985, Lawrence M. Jenco, an ordained priest in the Catholic
church, was working in Beirut, Lebanon as the Director of Catholic Relief
Services. On the morning of January 8, he was abducted by five armed men
and imprisoned for the next for 564 days. After his release, he returned
to the United States and served as a parish priest until his death on
July 19, 1996.
From the moment he was abducted, Father Jenco was treated little better
than a caged animal. He was chained, beaten, and almost constantly
blindfolded. His access to toilet facilities was extremely limited, if
permitted at all. He was routinely required to urinate in a cup and
maintain the urine in his cell. His food and clothing were spare, as was
even the most basic medical care
He also withstood repeated psychological torture. Most notably, at one
point, his captors held a gun to his head and told him that he was about
to die. The captors pulled the trigger and laughed as Father Jenco
reacted to the small click of the unloaded gun. At other times, the
captors misled Fr. Jenco into thinking he was going home. They told him
to dress up in his good clothes, took pictures of him, and then said
"ha, ha, we're just kidding." Fr. Jenco Interview, Plaintiffs' Exhibit
21, at 93.
Even after his release and return to the United States, Fr.
Jenco continued to suffer the effects of his captivity. For a
long period after his return, Father Jenco remained underweight and
quite weak. Father Jenco's nephew, David Mihelich, testified that
his uncle's disposition was noticeably milder, and indeed never
returned to its pre-captivity state. As well, Christopher Morales,
a Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, became a
close friend of Jenco's after interviewing him about his experience
in Lebanon. Agent Morales testified that he witnessed Father Jenco
have three separate "flashbacks", that is, moments where Jenco
appeared to be aloof of his surroundings and somewhat possessed and
disturbed by different images or experiences. See Feb. 15, 2001 Tr.
In sum, the last 11 years of Fr. Jenco's life were indelibly marred by
his kidnapping and torture. With that established, the Court turns to
the next issue: who were his captors?
B. Father Jenco's Captors and Their Connections to the Iranian Government
The testimony of numerous witnesses at trial convinces the Court that
Father Jenco's captors were members of the Islamic group Hizbollah and
that Hizbollah was funded and controlled by the Iranian government and
the Iranian Ministry of Information and Security.
Based on the evidence presented at trial, it is clear that Fr. Jenco
was kidnapped and detained by the Islamic fundamentalist group
Hizbollah. This conclusion is supported by the testimony of several
witnesses. For example, Jenco's co-hostage, Terry Anderson, testified
that their captors were "very, very pro-Iranian," and that Iranian
Revolutionary Guards were involved in the kidnapping and detention of the
hostages. See Tr. at 116. Anderson further testified that he and his
co-hostages knew that they were being held in Hizbollah territory, and at
one point, were even held at Hizbollah headquarters. See Tr. at 116.
Moreover, several years after his release, Anderson interviewed the
secretary general of Hizbollah who as much as admitted to the
kidnappings. See Tr. at 118. Thomas Sutherland, another co-hostage of
Jenco's, also testified as to the identity of his captors. The captors,
according to Sutherland, were clearly part of an Islamic Jihad group,
who, when the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini was reported, wept quite
openly. See Tr. at 238.
Perhaps that most persuasive evidence that Jenco's captors were members
of Hizbollah came from Ambassador Robert Oakley and Dr. Patrick Clawson.
Oakley, a former advisor to the National Security Council on Middle East
affairs, testified bluntly on this subject. Consider the following
colloquy from trial:
Q. Is there any doubt in your mind [Ambassador Oakley]
that through that period of 1985 through 1991 that
the Hizbollah, backed by Iran, financially and
otherwise, was holding Tom Sutherland as a
See Tr. at 21. Dr. Patrick Clawson, an experienced researcher and writer
on Iranian politics, testified similarly. When asked by the Court
whether Sutherland, Jenco's co-hostage, was "initially seized by
Hizbollah . . . and held by them throughout the time?", Clawson responded
"Yes, your Honor." Tr. at 58.
Further support for the conclusion that Fr. Jenco was captured and
detained by Hizbollah is provided by precedent. For instance, in
Anderson v. The Islamic Republic of Iran, 90 F. Supp.2d 107, 113 (D.D.C.
2000), the Court found that Terry Anderson, Sutherland's co-hostage for
his entire captivity, was captured by Hizbollah and that "Iran
provided Hizbollah*fn3 with funding, direction and training for its
terrorist activities in Lebanon, including the kidnapping and torture of
Terry Anderson." See also Cicippio v. The Islamic Republic of Iran,
18 F. Supp.2d 62, 68 (D.D.C. 1998) (finding that Hizbollah was
responsible for the kidnapping and detention of David Jacobson, a
co-hostage of Sutherland, Anderson, and Jenco).
2. Hizbollah's Connection to the Iranian Government
In addition to finding that Fr. Jenco was seized by Hizbollah, the
Court also finds that The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian MOIS
provided support, guidance, and resources to Hizbollah. The most
persuasive testimony on this issue came from Jenco's experts: Ambassador
Oakley, Robert McFarlane, and Dr. Clawson. Ambassador Oakley testified
that "radical elements highly placed within the government of Iran are
giving operational policy advice to terrorists in Iran, specifically
terrorists operating under the name Islamic Jihad or Hizbollah." Tr. at
19. Similarly, Robert McFarlane, former National Security Advisor,
testified that Hizbollah was a "terrorist group . . . formed in the early
1980s under the sponsorship of the government of Iran." Tr. at 29; see
also Tr. at 31 (opining that Hizbollah was formed with the "volunteering
of [Iranian] financial support" as well as "Iranian personnel"). As
well, Dr. Clawson testified that the Iranian government and the Iranian
MOIS were behind the formation and funding of Hizbollah, and that
Hizbollah is very much under the control of the Iranian government. See
Tr. at 41-42. Finally, Middle East expert Dr. Reuven Paz testified that
almost all of Hizbollah's activities — whether social, religious,
or terrorist — were funded by the Iranian government. Dr. Paz
added that the Iranian government also provides Hizbollah substantial
non-financial support, such as arms and ammunition. See Videotape
Testimony of Ruven Paz, Feb. 7, 2001.
C. The Pain and Suffering of Father Jenco's Family
While Father Jenco was being held prisoner, his many siblings and
relatives banded together and fought for his release. The family made a
practice of meeting every Monday night to discuss what steps they could
take to help secure his release. Family members took on various
responsibilities, such as communicating with the public, dealing with the
media, maintaining contact with the State Department, and raising money
to cover the various costs of such a massive effort.
Andrew Mihelich and John Jenco, both nephews of Fr. Jenco, testified
that, because of their massive dedication to free Fr. Jenco, the whole
family, in effect, became a hostage in one way or another. As a result,
many of the traditional family events, such as birthdays, graduations, or
religious holidays were overshadowed-or overlooked altogether-on account
of the campaign to free Fr. Jenco. Apart from the campaign, the family
felt the very personal loss of not having their beloved relative at many
family milestones, such as weddings, births, and baptisms. On the
whole, according to John Jenco, the family spent the 19 months of Fr.
Jenco's captivity on an emotional roller coaster, never knowing how close
or far Fr. Jenco was to being released, not to mention returning home
Jenco relatives also testified as to the specific effects that the
captivity had of Fr. Jenco's brother, John Jenco. John Jenco Jr.
testified that, from the first day of captivity to the last day of his
own life, John Jenco Sr. was distraught in a way he had never been
before. He was able to celebrate the return of Fr. Jenco, but was never
fully able, according to John Jenco Jr., become himself again.
Similarly, Joseph Jenco testified that the stress of the captivity on
Verna Mae Mihelich likely was a factor in her premature death.
Based on the events described above, the plaintiffs make the following
(1) The estate of Fr. Jenco alleges battery, assault, and
(2) All plaintiffs allege the intentional infliction of
Given these claims, the Court is faced with the following three
questions, which it answers in the order presented:
(1) Are The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Iranian MOIS,
immune under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ...