The Bavis family, after filing for a trial in 2002, has finally received the first and only civil trial for their son, Mark, who died on United Airlines Flight 175 that hit Tower 2 on 9/11/2001. There was mention, too, in the New York Times that “Court approval is likely soon in the settlement of a case involving Louis Mariani, who was also on that flight.” His widow Ellen Mariani has yet to receive a trial or settlement.
A hockey player and coach himself, Mark Bavis, was a scout for the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, the reason he was on that fateful flight 175 to L.A. Now, after years of refusing a settlement from the Victims Compensation Fund, the Bavis family has its day in court to further understand what happened on that day with Logan Airport’s and United Airlines’ safety standards. The money, according to Mark’s twin brother, Michael, “was never an issue for them.” Closure was.
In the case of Mrs. Mariani, her sole desire was also originally to find out what happened to her husband Louis Mariani that day. She was among the first of victim families to refuse the money. She was the first and only one to sue for “wrongful death” which brought no response from the court. Nor was the legally-misadvised RICO suit she filed against the Bush Administration fruitful. Both were denied because the government claimed they would “endanger national security.” Perhaps more disclosure would improve the reality of national security.
Furthermore, the Victim’s Compensation Fund, established to financially assist victim families, stated that financial compensation would be forfeited if one sued the government. The families could take one or the other route, which is perhaps unconstitutional and makes the awards sound like “hush money.” Nevertheless, for families who would truly need it, taking the money made obvious sense. Some $7 billion was awarded. Part of that was some $500 million which was awarded to families who originally declined, then changed, or were persuaded to change their minds. In fact, 97 of 99 families had settled for financial awards after originally pursuing litigation. Three-hundred families out of nearly 3,000 did not take any awards.
I discussed this with Manny Badillo as we awaited Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in his courtroom. Manny had lost his uncle, Thomas J. Sgroi, who had been the vice president of Internet Technology (IT) for Marsh & McLennan located in Tower 1. Manny mentioned how essential the money had been to his aunt and her sons and to many victim families he has known as an activist for WeAreChange, Reinvestigate 9/11, Tower What?
The “what” in that project name came from Justice Edward Lehner not knowing about Tower 7! It was not hit by an airliner on 9/11/2001 but fell due to a controlled demolition. Justice Lehner was not aware of that fact though he had rejected a ballot initiative for a new 9/11 investigation in New York, one for which 81,000 New Yorkers had put their signatures. Manny had been instrumental in organizing this effort and the production of a TV commercial to make New Yorkers aware of Tower 7. It was in his work as an activist for 911 Truth that he had met Mrs. Mariani and they had becomes close friends.
When Judge Hellerstein arrived, he outlined a Bavis trial schedule to the gathered plaintiff and airline lawyers. It would start on June 13, 2011, and run to July 11, 2011, from Monday through Thursdays, and each side would have an equal amount of time to make its closing arguments, two to two-and-a-half hours for closing statements. Although a month of four-day weeks seemed scant time for such a high-profile trial, only a few whispers ensued amongst the lawyers.
Hellerstein added the Bavis suit would proceed separately from a number of other civil actions related to the 9/11 attacks which involved insurance and property claims, all of which have been consolidated.
The judge also asked lawyers to put together a short but fully footnoted narrative of 9/11’s events, but one that did not go into the “root events or causes” of the attacks and/or dwell on the personalities or motives of the hijackers. He mentioned, too, which was beguiling, describing what happened as in The 9/11 Commission Report, which has been criticized for its Omissions And Distortions by the dean of 9/11 scholars, David Ray Griffin, who wrote a book about them, so named in the italics.
Hellerstein felt, “The shorter the trial, the better the quality of the jury.” One tries to assume that this means we don’t want to bore the jury with too many facts or a more complete set of them. For instance, the initial 9/11 Commission Report didn’t even mention that Tower 7 fell but wasn’t hit by an airliner. Yet at 3 p.m. on 9/11/2001, Larry Silverstein, its owner, in a now well-known YouTube clip, said that there had been so much loss of life, we decided to “pull it,” which is the trade term for internal demolition.
In fact, at 5:20 p.m., less than two and a half hours later that is exactly what happened. Tower 7 fell into its footprint in 6.5 seconds. It would have taken weeks, months, to set up a 47-story, steel-framed building for a demolition like that. Some 1300 architects and engineers led by architect Richard Gage, signed a petition to Congress to reinvestigate 9/11, claiming that Tower 7’s internal demolition was the paradigm for Towers 1 and 2 as well. Certainly, there were many explosions heard during the first two hours and before Tower 7 fell, by firemen, police, first responders, journalists and eyewitnesses.
So, are we not to take this into account in a trial or ask questions about culpability? What kind of a trial would it be without them?
Curiously, the $500 million in insurance monies Silverstein quickly received enabled him to build a higher, wider, more attractive Tower 7, making it the only completed building since September 11, 2001, at the WTC site.
Returning to Mrs. Mariani, now under a gag order, it turns out her lawyer, Bruce Leichty was there, also under a gag order, but there to ask Judge Hellerstein if Mrs. Mariani would ever receive a trial or was that opportunity gone. Hellerstein answered with words to the effect that he did not think that she would never get a trial. Yet, it had been eight years. And how did that bode with the fact that her stepdaughter, Lauren Mariani Peters, was negotiating, seemingly independent of Mrs. Mariani for a settlement with the airlines? Lauren was not concerned with a trial. Lauren, a divorcee who had struggled with substance, alcohol and food abuse and keeping her two children, wanted the money.
Yet, how had it come to pass that Mrs. Mariani had been passed on from Mary Schiavo as her lawyer at the Motley Rice law firm, via chief plaintiff attorney for the firm, Donald Migliori, to Boston lawyer Charles A. Capace and passed from him to New Hampshire lawyer John Ransmeier?
Well, Ransmeier practiced in New Hampshire, in which Mrs. Mariani, her husband and stepdaughter had lived. But the executorship of the Mariani estate, which included Mrs. Mariani and her stepdaughter, was passed like a ship in the night from her hands to Mr. Ransmeier’s hands. How was he to represent the interests of both parties, both of whom had opposing interests, a conflict of interests, the stepdaughter for merely the money; Mrs. Mariani for a trial.
And with a trial fading from view, Mrs. Mariani’s interest in her portion of a financial settlement to live on became essential. Mrs. Mariani is a senior citizen, surviving on Social Security, utilizing food banks and going to Good Will for warm clothing. She helps her daughters from her first marriage with child care and takes care of mentally handicapped individuals and veterans in her own home.
Yet it seemed she was being shut out of information about that mentioned settlement, not only by Ransmeier but by all the other heavy legal hitters of Motley Rice — and the court. Could people really be so cruel? Could they turn their backs on Mrs. Mariani for being outspoken, grief-stricken over the loss of her husband of 13 years?
Was this her reward for asking for the truth? In pursuing it, she was suffering the accusations, endless legal hearings, fees piling up, even threats from her stepdaughter’s lawyers that she would have to pay the interest on monies denied by her “activist” actions. It is a nightmare for her.
Yet, she still blesses the Bavis family for their good fortune. She blesses the victim families that accepted the awards. She understands. She had been brought up by her grandparents to be self-reliant and thankful for whatever she had. So, how will the lawyers, the court, the cadre of lawyers decide, for or against her?
When I asked Mr. Migliori after the court hearing how she had wound up with Ransmeier, his answer was simple. “I don’t have to talk to you. You’re press.” And so it went, as Manny Badillo introduced himself as a victim family member, asking if the victim families’ defense could rise above The 9/11 Report, the narrow task of Logan and United’s screening techniques, et al? And he was repeatedly assured they would. Then, each of the Motley Rice legal crew shook his hand, turned, and entered the elevator, and the steel doors slid in front of them, lowering them to the lobby and the street. Good night and good luck.
What remains now is for justice to be balanced here, for the good fortune of the brave and deserving Bavis family and for the fortune of the brave and deserving Mrs. Mariani. That is not a lot to be asked, especially in the light of $7 billion dollars having been passed out. Again, justice delayed is justice denied. And in this case, that is not only unacceptable. It’s unconscionable.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. His book State Of Shock – Poems from 9/11 on is available at www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on American and world politics as an Associate Editor of Online Journal.