- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — A jury ruled yesterday that the Port Authority was negligent in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 — a long-awaited legal victory for victims of an attack that killed six persons and wounded 1,000.

The six-person jury ruled that the Port Authority, the agency that owned the World Trade Center, was negligent by not properly maintaining the parking garage, where terrorists detonated more than a half-ton of explosives in a Ryder rental van.

The panel, which deliberated about nine hours over two days after a four-week civil trial, said the negligence was a “substantial factor” in the allowing the bombing to occur. Several separate trials will now be held to determine financial damages for some 400 individuals.

The trial cast the spotlight on an attack that was overshadowed after September 11, 2001, but was horrific nonetheless. The noontime blast blew a gigantic crater in the garage, filled the building with smoke, wrecked the towers’ power and emergency systems and spread fear across New York.

The agency vowed to appeal the verdict. “The Port Authority is confident it will prevail,” the agency’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said.

Eileen Olsen of Hyattsville, Md., sister of a plaintiff who died before the case came to trial, was in court to hear the verdict.

“I think it’s great,” she said. The jurors “felt as we did: The Port Authority did not fulfill its responsibility, its duty to keep [the victims] safe.”

Jurors said they were swayed by a 1985 report written by the Port Authority’s own security officials, who warned the 400-slot garage was a likely attack site.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys cited the report as proof that the Port Authority could have protected the building long before the attack, but did not want to because it was inconvenient and would have cost too much.

“They should have closed the garage,” lead plaintiff attorney David J. Dean said after the verdict. “Lives would have been saved, and 1,000 people would not have been hurt.”

Juror Ray Gonzalez said the 1985 report was “very prominent” in deliberations. He said the Port Authority “dropped the ball.”

“No one took [the report] seriously,” Mr. Gonzalez said.

The jury determined that the agency was 68 percent liable for the bombing — a ruling that Mr. Kasowitz called stunning.

“To hold the Port Authority twice as liable as the terrorists for the 1993 bombing stands logic, rationality and reason on their heads,” he said.

Mr. Kasowitz said during the trial that nothing would have deterred resourceful terrorists — obsessed with bombing a building that was an icon of capitalism — from finding a way to unleash an attack.

“The plaintiffs want to blame the Port Authority for the murderous acts of fanatical terrorists who schemed for years and traveled thousands of miles” to carry out the attack, he told the jury.

Six persons were convicted and sentenced to life in prison in criminal court for their roles in the bombing. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the reputed ringleader, said at sentencing: “Yes, I am a terrorist, and I am proud of it.”

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