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Monday, June 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Ex-Navy SEAL Takes War on Attorneys to Indy

(CN) - The ex-Navy SEAL who lost his bid to hold his lawyers to account in Manhattan Federal Court for controversies surrounding his narrative of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, is now taking his legal battle to Indiana.

Since he published "No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden," three years ago, Matt Bissonnette has been trailed by controversy and federal agents, and he has long blamed his publisher's lawyers for the aggravation.

In a complaint filed in Fort Wayne, Ind. on Nov. 9, Bissonnette claims Fort Wayne, Ind., attorney Kevin Podlaski and Podlaski's former law firm, Carson Boxberger, advised him against vetting the memoir through the Pentagon and other governmental agencies before publication.

Bissonnette says the lawyers assured him that he would have no "civil or criminal exposure" for writing it. "Defendants were wrong on both aspects of their advice," the complaint states.

The former Navy SEAL made exactly the same allegations in a lawsuit that U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman, sitting in Manhattan, tossed on Oct. 7.

Furman dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction, saying that there was no reason to have filed the complaint in Manhattan as Bissonnette resides in Texas and Podlaski and his former firm are located in Fort Wayne.

"This lawsuit was refiled in Indiana because this story needs to be told," said Randy Johnston, who represents Bissonnette. "The reputation of this American hero needs to be corrected, and we expect to go to trial in Indiana."

But Bissonnette's second attempt to get a hearing on his claims is already running into the headwinds.

On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Collins ordered him to filed an amended complaint by Nov. 24 that "properly alleges" the citizenship of Carson Boxberger firm by setting forth the citizenship of each of its partners, "tracing through all applicable layers of ownership."

As set forth in the current complaint, Bissonnette hired Podlaski and his firm to vet "No Easy Day" prior to publication to assure that no sensitive information regarding the Bin Laden mission would be leaked.

He claims the attorney and the firm assured him he could go forward with publication.

Bissonnette says he relied on the advice because Podlaski held himself out as having expertise in dealing with military confidentiality and book vetting, and holding a high level of government security clearance.

But the U.S. Department of Defense threatened Bissonnette even before his book was released with a civil suit, claiming he had included classified information about the top-secret raid.

Podlaski allegedly advised Bissonnette that he wasn't obligated to submit his work to the Department of Defense for prepublication review, and didn't include provisions in the publishing contract that would have shielded his client from future legal action, the author claims.

But the attorney had "no legal right to substitute his judgment for that of agencies of the United States as to what classified or otherwise sensitive information the Book might contain," the lawsuit says.

Bissonnette claims that when Jeh Johnson, general counsel to the Department of Defense, contacted him about supposed security violations and failure to submit his text for agency review prior to publication, Podlaski told him, "We should not worry."

The former Seal says he hired another firm to represent him against the government's threats of civil and criminal liability, and forfeited all book profits, which he estimates at more than $4.5 million.

He also claims to have lost a significant amount of money to legal fees and suffered damage to his reputation.Podlaski's attorney, Robert Shannon, Jr., of Hall, Booth and Smith of Atlanta, was unavailable for comment.

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