Judith Gross sues government, contractor on husband Alan’s behalf

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Alan Gross’ wife sued the U.S. government and the company that contracted his work in Cuba, alleging that their training was inadequate and a factor in his imprisonment.

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A media release issued on behalf of Scott Gilbert, a lawyer, said that the lawsuit he filed Friday on behalf of Judith Gross in a federal court in Washington D.C. seeks to “hold Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI) and the United States Government accountable for their role in Mr. Gross’ detention and imprisonment, including their abject failure to advise, train and protect him.”

Gross, 63, of Potomac, Md., was sentenced last year to 15 years in prison for “crimes against the state.”

He was arrested in 2009 for allegedly bringing satellite phones and computer equipment to members of Cuba’s Jewish community. He has exhausted the appeals process.

Gilbert’s release alleges that Gross’ “role in the project required Mr. Gross to make multiple trips to Cuba over a short period, the fifth of which resulted in his wrongful arrest and detention.”

Gross, who had run similar projects in other countries, was subcontracting to DAI, which was running a contract for the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development.  

“Mr. and Mrs. Gross claim that DAI and the U.S. Government failed to disclose adequately to Mr. Gross, both before and after he began traveling to Cuba, the material risks that he faced due to his participation in the project,” the release says. It does not mention the figure that the family is seeking.

DAI in a statement alluded to Gross’ prior experience in such matters, and suggested that it did not want to say more pending continuing efforts to win Gross’ release.

“Alan Gross is a colleague and friend whom we respect for his many years of international development experience and his expertise,” the DAI statement says. “We are disappointed that the Gross family has chosen to file a law suit at this point in time. As much as we would like to address the numerous disagreements we have with the content of the complaint, the fact is that doing so will not advance the cause of bringing Alan home, which remains our highest priority.”

Gross has become a cause for U.S. Jewish organizations, which have led protests and representations to U.S. and foreign officials on his behalf. His mother, who is 90, and his daughter are both struggling with cancer.

The State Department did not return a request for comment.

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Ron Kampeas is JTA’s Washington bureau chief.

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