WASHINGTON (CN) — Thirteen years to date since the longest-held captive in U.S. history, Bob Levinson, disappeared, a federal judge on Monday ruled the former FBI agent’s family is entitled to damages in a lawsuit seeking $1.5 billion from Iran.
In the years since Levinson vanished on March 9, 2007, while on a rogue mission for the CIA, he has missed the weddings of three adult children and the birth of eight grandchildren. Last year, the Levinson family appeared in U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly’s courtroom in Washington, D.C., for an evidentiary hearing where they shared tormented accounts of the pain suffered since their father’s disappearance.
“He has been unable to see his children grow up, enjoy professional success, marry, and become parents themselves — as they have many times over. But they have not forgotten him, not by a long shot,” Kelly wrote in his 25-page opinion granting default judgment against Iran.
Sarah Moriarty, Levinson’s daughter, said in an interview after the hearing that her family filed their 2017 lawsuit seeking $150 million in compensatory damages and $1.35 billion in punitive damages to send a message to the Iranian government.
“It’s not about the money for us,” Moriarty said. “It’s about doing everything that we can possibly do to bring my dad home to us.”
Iran has long denied holding Levinson. But the FBI confirmed publicly last year that “the only credible evidence of responsibility in Mr. Levinson’s abduction has pointed to those working for the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Judge Kelly reached the same conclusion Monday, calling Levinson's detention “barbarous” and “dastardly.”
Iran will not immediately cut a check to the Levinsons in response to the Washington judge’s ruling. The money will be doled out to the family year by year based on assets available from a federal fund designated for victims of state-sponsored terrorism.
Attorney David McGee, representing the family since the day Levinson disappeared, said it has been a constant struggle over the last 13 years to keep the public from moving on.
“The American press has a short memory, and the American politicians have short memories,” McGee said in an interview Monday. "We have to periodically remind them that there is an American still imprisoned in Iran, and they need to get him the hell out of there."
The Levinsons said in a statement Monday the nightmare that began 13 years ago continues for their family.
“On this anniversary, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has found that the Iranian regime is responsible for what happened to him. This case was extremely emotional for everyone involved, including the court, and we wish to acknowledge all those who worked on it,” they said. “We will continue to do everything in our power to seek justice for our husband and father.”
One by one the Levinsons had testified in the emotional two-day hearing in December, broken down and sobbing in the witness box as they recounted the mental and physical disorders that have plagued them the last 13 years.