A Widow's Quest for 9-11 Truth
by Christopher Bollyn
August 2, 2005
In the aftermath of 9-11, some grieving
relatives rejected compensation from the government and turned to the courts
hoping for discovery, justice, and accountability. Ellen Mariani, the widow who
filed the first 9-11 lawsuit, says her lawyers conspired with the government to
thwart her pursuit of the truth.
Ellen Mariani, widow of Louis Neil
Mariani, was the plaintiff in the first 9-11 lawsuit. For the wrongful death of
her beloved husband, a passenger on Flight 175, Mrs. Mariani's case against
United Airlines was filed on December 20, 2001. For Mariani, however, the
courts have proven to be an elusive path to the truth. Three and a half years
after the wrongful death suit was filed, her legal pursuit to obtain the truth,
justice, and accountability for Neil's death and that of some 3,000 other
victims of 9-11 has been hijacked, she says. "They hijacked my case just like
my husband's plane," Mariani said, "to cover up the truth."
Her legal pursuit for the truth has been
"sand-bagged," she says, by a series of unscrupulous and corrupt lawyers who
have conspired with attorneys for the government.
The government's legal strategy has been
to encourage the relatives to accept compensation from the taxpayer-funded
Victim Compensation Fund. Families who accept compensation from the government
administrated fund forfeit their right to sue the airlines or any other parties
for damages. The 9-11 Victim Compensation Fund is administrated by Special
Master Kenneth Feinberg. Feinberg has also served as Special Master in other
high profile settlements involving Agent Orange, asbestos, and breast implants.
He was also an arbitrator who determined the allocation of legal fees in the
Holocaust slave labor litigation.
"I don't want taxpayer's money," Mariani
said. "I want the truth, justice, and accountability. The sense of closure and
justice cannot be compensated with money."
"We need and deserve an answer that may
become clear only during a full, fair and complete investigation," Mariani wrote
in an open letter to federal judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the U.S. District
Court, Southern District of New York. The letter never reached the judge,
Although her case has been handled by a
host of attorneys, the main lawyers have been, in order: Don Nolan of the
Chicago-based Nolan Law Group; Mary F. Sciavo, a former prosecutor for the U.S.
Dept. of Justice who handled Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) cases
in the 1980s; and Philip J. Berg of
While the legal treachery to which Ellen
Mariani has been subjected may seem shocking, it is actually not unusual in high
profile cases in which a western "democratic" government is involved. The
Mariani saga provides an excellent case study of how such cases are effectively
"I will never trust my country again,"
Mariani said. "They can just snap their fingers and a lawsuit is thrown out.
Although Mariani's wrongful death case
against United Airlines made headlines when it was filed three months after
Flight 175 allegedly smashed into the
Kohlman, said the Mariani case was not
closed but that a lawyer had been appointed administrator of the Mariani estate.
Kohlman said this arrangement was "odd." "Supposedly the lawyers are in
negotiations with UAL," Kohlman said, referring to the parent company of United
"I'm struggling to get by on Social
Security and garage sales - selling my personal things - so I can survive,"
Mariani said. There is no grave where she can place the government issued
plaque for her husband, a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War. "There is
no body to bury; there is no closure. The only story I can tell is the tragic
end to a marriage," Mariani said.
She is under a gag order preventing her
from speaking about the case since December 1, 2004, when she was removed as
administratrix of the estate of her husband in a
"Why can't we speak freely?" Mariani
asks. "You can't heal until the truth comes out. 9-11 is an open wound. We've
been cheated of our rights and our freedom to speak. I am the widow. Neil was
the breadwinner and I was his only dependent," she said. The administratrix
position was taken from Mrs. Mariani by lawyers representing her step-daughter,
the adult daughter of her late husband, she said. Mariani has proof that the
lawyers had conspired to remove her from the lawsuit, she said.
The step-daughter is represented by
lawyers linked to Greenberg and Traurig, Mariani said, a law firm with close
ties to both President George W. Bush and his brother, John "Jeb" Bush, the
Mariani's step-daughter has a history of
substance abuse and took "mind-altering" medications after 9-11. During the
court proceeding that removed Mariani from the case the
Many of the grieving relatives of 9-11
victims were medicated by doctors working with the Red Cross, she said. "Why did
the Red Cross steer 9-11 grieving families to their own approved psychologists?
Why did the Red Cross bring in their own counselors and refuse to pay family
doctors? Why did they medicate the relatives?"
"You can't heal while you are
medicated," Mariani says. "You can't grow. You stop where you are. You have to
bite the bullet and it hurts like hell."
"These are mind-control medications,"
she said. "That's why they had to remove me. They couldn't control me." Removing
Mariani from her own case was a decision made between her lawyers and those from
"the other side," she said.
"Judge Hellerstein in
Hellerstein is still the controlling
judge, Kohlman said. "Phil Berg is the culprit," Mariani said, referring to the
role her former lawyer played in removing her from the case. "He ordered me to
give up the administratrix position and go full on the RICO." The RICO case is a
racketeering lawsuit in which the first five of 52 defendants named are all from
the Bush family.
The RICO case used by Berg was actually
written by Jeffrey Trueman, a paralegal and founder of the Veterans Equal Rights
Protection Advocacy, Inc. (VERPA). Berg was not available for comment for this
"Forget the RICO. I don't want anything
to do with it," Mariani said. "Berg pushed the RICO. He set me up to fail and my
case to be thrown out."
"Berg hijacked my case," Mariani said.
"He went to the other side." She describes Berg's handling of her case as "very
incompetent." She retained Kohlman in February 2005 and fired Berg but he has
not turned over her file. "There is no RICO and there shouldn't have been,"
Kohlman said. "One has to prove a pattern. It makes the job more difficult."
The RICO case was dismissed with prejudice by a judge in the Eastern District
of Pennsylvania in the spring of 2004, Kohlman said. Since February Kohlman has
requested the Mariani case file four times and complained to the disciplinary
"Berg is withholding my file, accounting, and condolences from all over the world," Mariani said. "After I saw what they did to me," Mariani said. "I question everything about 9-11."