WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. government has agreed to pay $5.8 million to settle a lawsuit with former Army scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill, whom former Attorney General John Ashcroft deemed a “person of interest” in the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and made 17 others ill.
According to settlement documents filed Friday, the Justice Department will pay Hatfill $2.825 million in cash and buy him a $3 million annuity contract, to be paid in $150,000 annual installments over 20 years. In exchange, Hatfill will dismiss all claims against the government.
Hatfill, who worked at the Army’s infectious diseases laboratory from 1997 to 1999, accused government officials of violating his privacy rights by talking to the media about the still-unsolved attacks. Just weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, letters containing dangerous anthrax spores were mailed to legislators and members of the media in New York and Florida.
In March, a federal judge ordered USA Today reporter Toni Locy to give up her government sources or face a $5,000 daily fine. She challenged the order, but her case is still pending. The Associated Press speculated that the Hatfill settlement will likely help her case.
The Justice Department denied any liability, saying the settlement “is not, is in no way intended to be, and should not be construed as, an admission of liability or fault,” and added that the agreement reflects a compromise on both sides.