Judith Gross sues government, contractor on husband Alan’s behalf

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The wife of imprisoned contractor Alan Gross sued the U.S. government and the company that contracted his work in Cuba.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Judith Gross last Friday in a federal court in Washington alleged that their training was inadequate and a factor in his imprisonment.

A spokeswoman said the family was seeking $60 million from the government and Development Alternatives Inc.

A news release issued by Scott Gilbert, the family’s lawyer, said the lawsuit he filed seeks to hold DAI and the U.S. government accountable for their role in Gross’ detention and imprisonment, "including their abject failure to advise, train and protect him."

"Mr. and Mrs. Gross claim that DAI and the U.S. Government failed to disclose adequately to Mr. Gross, both before and after he began traveling to Cuba, the material risks that he faced due to his participation in the project," the release said. It does not mention the figure that the family is seeking.

A separate lawsuit filed the same day is seeking $10 million for benefits that the family says Gross’ insurer, Federal Insurance Company, has denied.

Gross, 63, of Potomac, Md., was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for "crimes against the state." He was arrested in 2009 for allegedly bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community. He has exhausted the appeals process.

Gilbert’s release alleges that Gross’ "role in the project required Mr. Gross to make multiple trips to Cuba over a short period, the fifth of which resulted in his wrongful arrest and detention."

Gross, who had run similar projects in other countries, was subcontracting to DAI, which was running a contract for the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development.  

DAI in a statement alluded to Gross’ prior experience in such matters. "Alan Gross is a colleague and friend whom we respect for his many years of international development experience and his expertise," the statement said.

The company also said that it was "disappointed that the Gross family has chosen to file a law suit at this point in time" and suggested that it did not want to say more pending continuing efforts to win Gross’ release.

"As much as we would like to address the numerous disagreements we have with the content of the complaint, the fact is that doing so will not advance the cause of bringing Alan home, which remains our highest priority," the statement said.

Gross has become a cause for U.S. Jewish organizations, which have led protests and representations to U.S. and foreign officials on his behalf. His mother, who is 90, and his daughter are both battling cancer.

The State Department referred comment to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

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