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Estate of Parsons v. Palestinian Authority

United States District Court, District Circuit

July 3, 2013

ESTATE OF MARK PARSONS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This case is before the Court on remand from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs—the Estate of Mark Parsons, Mary Lazin, John J. Parsons, Catherine Tyokody, the Estate of Agnes Parsons, and the Estate of John W. Parsons (“Parsons family”)—are suing the remaining Defendant, the Palestinian Authority (“PA”), [1] under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991 (“ATA”), 18 U.S.C. § 2331 et seq., in connection with the death of Mark Parsons. Parsons was killed by a roadside bomb while providing security for a U.S. State Department convoy in the Gaza Strip in October 2003. Following remand by the Court of Appeals, the PA filed a renewed motion for summary judgment. See Mot. at Dkt. #48. This Court, having reviewed the briefs, supporting documents, and relevant case law, denies the PA’s motion.

I. LEGAL BACKGROUND

A. Summary Judgment Standard

The court will grant a motion for summary judgment if the pleadings and any affidavits or declarations show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Factual assertions in the moving party’s affidavits or declarations may be accepted as true unless the opposing party submits its own affidavits or declarations or documentary evidence to the contrary. Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1992). As the PA’s arguments turn entirely on issues of law, there is no issue of material fact for purposes of this motion.

B. The Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 1991, 18 U.S.C. § 2331 et seq., gives any United States national “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” the right to bring a civil lawsuit in federal court. 18 U.S.C. § 2333(a). The Act defines “international terrorism” as activities that, among other things, “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).

The criminal violation alleged in the instant case arises under 18 U.S.C. § 2339A, which concerns the provision of material support to terrorists. Section 2339A makes it a crime to “provide[] material support or resources . . . knowing or intending that they are to be used in preparation for, or in carrying out” specific violent crimes, including 18 U.S.C. § 2332(a), which prohibits the killing of a national of the United States while that national is outside the United States. 18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A(a), 2332(a).

When Mark Parsons was killed in October 2003, the version of Section 2339A(b) in effect defined “material support” as follows:

(b) Definition. – In this section, the term ‘material support or resources’ means currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel, transportation, and other physical assets, except medicine or religious materials.

18 U.S.C. § 2339A(b) (2000 ed. Supp. III).

In 2004, Congress amended the definition of “material support.” Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (“IRTPA”), Dec. 17, 20014, P.L. 108-458, § 6603(b), 118 Stat. 3762. This version, which is currently in effect, defines “material support” as follows:

(b) Definitions.— As used in this section—
(1) the term “material support or resources” means any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more ...

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