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Estate of Parsons v. Palestinian Authority

May 29, 2010

ESTATE OF MARK PARSONS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Robertson United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

On October 15, 2003, Mark Parsons was traveling near the Ben Hanoun junction in northern Gaza, Palestine, as part of a security detail escorting United States diplomats to interview applicants for Fulbright scholarships. A remote control bomb denoted near Parsons' vehicle, killing him and two others. Parsons' estate, his siblings, and the estate of his parents (collectively, "plaintiffs") bring this action against the Palestinian Authority ("PA") and the Palestinian Liberation Organization ("PLO") under the Antiterrorism Act of 1991 ("ATA"), 18 U.S.C. § 2331 et seq., alleging that they bear responsibility for the bombing.

At the motion to dismiss phase, I permitted the plaintiffs to proceed to discovery even though they could not identify the entity responsible for the attack. See Dkt. #14 at 11-12. Plaintiffs now contend that Amer Qarmout and/or the Popular Resistance Committee ("PRC"), a militant organization in Palestine, committed the attack, and they contend that the PA and PLO have a sufficiently close relationship to Qarmout, the PRC, and the bombing to justify holding them liable. Defendants now move for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion must be granted.

Analysis

I. Palestinian Liberation Organization

While plaintiffs' claims against the PA require extended analysis, their claims against the PLO can be dismissed quickly. All of the plaintiffs' evidence, discussed below, relates to the PA. While the Complaint may aver that PLO in actuality controlled the PA during all relevant times, see Compl. ¶ 9, at the summary judgment stage evidence is required. None has been provided. Summary judgment will granted on all claims against the PLO.

II. Palestinian Authority

I previously granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' common law claim (Count Five) and denied the motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' ATA claims (Counts One through Four).*fn1 See Dkt. #14. Under the ATA, "[a]ny national of the United States injured in his or her person, property, or business by reason of an act of international terrorism, or his or her estate, survivors, or heirs, may sue therefor in any appropriate district court of the United States." 18 U.S.C. § 2333. "International terrorism" is defined by the ATA as activities that, among other requirements, "involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State." 18 U.S.C. § 2331(1)(A).

A necessary predicate to any finding that the PA engaged in "international terrorism," is a finding that the PA violated one of three federal criminal statutes. Plaintiffs allege, first, that the PA violated 18 U.S.C. § 2339A, by providing material support to aid in the killing of a U.S. national outside of the United States. They allege second, that the PA conspired to kill a U.S. national outside of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2332(b). And they allege, third, that the PA violated 18 U.S.C. § 2339B, which criminalizes knowingly providing material support to a "foreign terrorist organization." I will discuss each predicate criminal act in turn.

A. Material support for killing (§ 2339A)

1. Legal standard

Section 2339A prohibits "supply[ing] material support or resources," "knowing or intending that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out a violation of" other specified provisions of the U.S. criminal code, including 18 U.S.C. § 2332, which prohibits the killing of a U.S. national outside the United States. To determine whether a defendant has provided material support for a terrorist act under § 2339A, a court must determine (1) what terrorist organization or individual carried out the attack, and (2) whether the defendant provided material support to that entity or individual. See Gates v. Syrian Arab Republic, 580 F. Supp. 2d 53, 67 (D.D.C. 2008); Ben-Rafael v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 540 F. Supp. 2d 39, 46 (D.D.C. 2008); see also Linde v. Arab Bank, PLC, 384 F. Supp. 2d 571, 585 (E.D.N.Y. 2005) (plaintiffs must prove that the defendant provided material support "to the particular group responsible for the attacks giving rise to their injuries").

Central to the material support predicate, then, is the requirement that the plaintiffs prove who committed the attacks. This ...


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