A federal judge on Wednesday threw out a $10-million civil lawsuit filed by the family of a U.S. Marine Corps colonel who died in 1991, ruling that the family had not proved that military leaders used intimidation tactics to quash their inquiries into the death investigation.
U.S. District Judge Alicemarie H. Stotler halted the week-old trial shortly after the family rested its case, throwing out the last few claims in a 7-year-old lawsuit that originally charged the military with conspiring to conceal information about the case.
Military investigators at the now-closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station ruled the death of Col. James E. Sabow a suicide after he was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. They said he killed himself after being suspended for allegedly misusing military aircraft.
But family members, including Sabow's brother, John Sabow, disputed the findings from the start, saying the military overlooked key evidence. They claimed military officials threatened to release information that would portray Sabow as a crook and a felon if the family went public with their accusations.
But Stotler, after hearing the testimony of several witnesses, said the family failed to prove that claim, as well as others. Her decision drew immediate praise from government lawyers.
"We are obviously pleased with the judge's ruling," said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office. "All of the allegations made by the plaintiffs in this case have been thrown out by the court."
Daniel Sheehan, the family's attorney, said he did not know if an appeal would be filed. He said the family was "crushed" by the decision. "They don't believe the court has given them a fair trial."