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Electrocuted soldier’s family seeks sanctions

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Electrocuted soldier’s family seeks sanctions

By Robin Acton
Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth

Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth

Lawyers for the family of an electrocuted soldier on Tuesday accused defense contractor KBR Inc. of violating a court-ordered confidentiality agreement by releasing documents to the news media last month.

Company attorneys countered KBR had to defend itself against bad press concerning the deaths of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, of Shaler and 17 others who were electrocuted since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer, after hearing arguments from both sides, indicated she will rule on the plaintiff’s motion for sanctions against KBR at a later date.

Attorney Stephen Del Sole told the court that KBR tried to “put their spin on the facts” when company spokeswoman Heather Browne released a “position paper” denying involvement in the electrocutions. He said the paper and an accompanying chart contain misleading information and factual inaccuracies that are contradicted by official records.

Maseth, a Green Beret, died after turning on the water and stepping into his shower at the Radwaniyah Palace Complex in Iraq. His parents, Cheryl Harris and Douglas Maseth, sued KBR, claiming the contractor performed shoddy work and failed to maintain the electrical infrastructure at the estate once owned by Saddam Hussein.

The Army Criminal Investigation Division recently changed the manner of Maseth’s Jan. 2, 2008, death from accidental to negligent homicide and reopened investigations into at least two other electrocutions. Del Sole added that as “facts come out, it shows more and more that they (KBR) are responsible for soldiers’ deaths.”

“This position paper was sent to local media for only one reason: to influence the potential jury pool,” Del Sole said.

KBR attorney Joseph Luciana accused Harris, her attorneys and several members of Congress of trying the case in the news media. He said they generated news releases and offered comments that resulted in inaccurate reporting in the local and national press and in a blog written by a former KBR employee.

Luciana called Maseth’s death “a tragic accident” that occurred in a building that lacked electrical grounding. He said KBR’s government contract did not cover repairs to the water pump that shorted out and electrified the water running through the shower pipes.

He added that KBR did not violate federal court rules governing confidentiality because the firm responded to what he called numerous false articles that linked KBR to the electrocutions.

Robin Acton can be reached at racton@tribweb.com or 724-830-6295. (Click HERE to read original article)

Oh “boo hoo” KBR!! Are the bloggers not being supportive of your “predicament”? You made your bed now “lie” in it!! Who thinks we should send KBR’s senior staff and attorney’s to Iraq and put them in the same showers that our troops and civilians shower in.

Ms Sparky

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