Monday, March 2, 2015

Family of Ibragim Todashev files suit against the FBI

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 7:46 AM

todashev.jpg

This morning MSNBC and the Daily Beast are both reporting that the family of Ibragim Todashev, the 27-year-old Chechen-American who was shot to death by FBI agents in 2013 during questioning in his apartment in Orlando, is filing a wrongful death suit against the FBI. 

According to the Daily Beast, Hassan Shibly of the Council for American Islamic Relations will file notice of claim today. The suit will ask for $30 million. Among the claims made in the suit, according to the Daily Beast, is that the FBI was negligent in hiring Aaron McFarlane, the agent who fired the shot that killed Todashev. In the suit, the family points out that McFarlane was the subject of two police brutality suits and was part of four internal affairs investigations when he was a police officer in Oakland, Calif. In 2014, State Attorney Jeff Ashton cleared the FBI and the other officers who were on site during Todashev's questioning of any wrongdoing, but the report he released revealed some details about the incident that made it seem ... poorly handled, at best. 

CAIR has a press conference scheduled for today at 11:30 outside the Orange County Courthouse. We'll keep you posted. 

UPDATE: The East Orlando Post has emailed us to let us know that they broke this story at 1 a.m., before MSNBC or the Daily Beast. Check out their story here. 

UPDATE #2: CAIR has posted about the suit on its website, including a statement from the Todashev family. 

There is a crowdfunding page here. Below is the complaint. 

Attachment to Form 95 Claim by Hassan Shibly, Personal Representative
8.
a. Aaron McFarlane (“McFarlane”) illegally shot and killed Ibragim
Todashev (“Todashev”) on May 22, 2013. Officers, agents, and employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), an agency of the United States Department of Justice, along with officers, agents and employees of the State of Massachusetts, caused Todashev’s wrongful death by the following acts and omissions, among others presently unknown to Claimant.
b. McFarlane has been a special agent of the FBI since 2008. Prior to working for the FBI, he was a police officer at the Oakland Police Department in California. While working at the Oakland Police Department, McFarlane was the subject of two police-brutality lawsuits and four internal-affairs investigations.
c. In 2003, McFarlane testified for the defense in California v. Siapno, a.k.a the “Riders” case. After the prosecution implied McFarlane falsified police reports, he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self- incrimination and subsequently testified under immunity.
d. In 2004, McFarlane retired from the Oakland Police Department, claiming disability and, thereupon, began receiving disability payments. He was still receiving disability payments at the time he was hired by the FBI for active duty and continued to do so up through the time he shot Todashev.
e. Starting on or about April 15, 2013, FBI agents followed and repeatedly questioned Todashev regarding the Boston Marathon Bombings, allegedly committed by Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzokhar Tsarnaev. Todashev was acquainted with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as both trained at the Wai Kru Gym in Boston, Massachusetts.
f. On April 21, 2013, Todashev and his girlfriend, Tatyana Gruzdeva (“Gruzdeva”), were approached by six or seven plainclothes FBI agents at their apartment located at 6022 Peregrine Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32819. The agents ordered Todashev to the ground at gunpoint and
handcuffed him. The agents searched the apartment, questioned Todashev for four to five hours, and confiscated all phones, computers, and other electronic devices.
g. Subsequently, the FBI agents transported Todashev to the Orlando Police Department (“OPD”), where agents Robert R. Manson and Christopher John Savard (“Savard”) questioned him further. Todashev provided information about how he knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev and denounced the Boston Marathon Bombings as “horrible and unnecessary.”
h. Savard is a member of the OPD and has been assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (“JTT”). As an agent of the JTT, Savard operates under the supervision, and therefore as an agent, of the FBI.
i. Todashev was, at all relevant times, cooperative and forthcoming with FBI agents.
j. Indeed, on April 22, 2013, Savard again interrogated Todashev, who had voluntarily gone to the OPD for questioning.
k. In April 2013, FBI agents also began questioning Reniya Manukyan (“Manukyan”), Todashev’s wife, from whom he has been separated since 2011. FBI agents first detained Manukyan in New York as she was returning from visiting her family in Russia and questioned her for five hours regarding the Boston Bombing. The next day, FBI agents questioned Manukyan again, this time at her workplace in Atlanta, Georgia, about the car she and Todashev shared (e.g., who owned the title, who paid for it, and whether she was afraid she would be blamed for Todashev’s actions because they shared a car). FBI agents again questioned her about the car and the Boston Bombing again on the night of May 21, 2013.
l. During the week of May 13, 2013, FBI agents questioned several of Todashev’s friends, including Ashur Miraliev (“Miraliev”). An FBI agent who introduced himself as “Agent Hanson” questioned Miraliev about his political views, his views regarding the Boston Bombings, his religion, as well as Todashev’s character and political and religious views. The agent then asked Miraliev to inform on activities at local mosques and restaurants that Todashev and his friends frequented. When Miraliev declined, the agent threatened to interfere with Miraliev’s asylum application.
m. On May 15, 2013, Savard once again called Todashev to the OPD for questioning. Once again, Todashev voluntarily went to the OPD for interrogation. Gruzdeva accompanied Todashev to the OPD. As Gruzdeva waited for Todashev to complete the interview, she was
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approached by four agents. They placed her in an office, searched her handbag, and requested that she keep them informed of Todashev’s whereabouts and actions. Gruzdeva declined. Immediately thereafter, one of the agents picked up the phone, dialed an unknown number, and stated “we have an illegal girl,” referring to the fact that Gruzdeva was an undocumented immigrant. She was placed in handcuffs, taken to Orange County jail, and placed in immigration detention.
n. Todashev exited the interview with Savard and was unable to find Gruzdeva. After locating her in Orange County jail, he spoke to Gruzdeva daily.
o. On the morning of May 21, 2013, Gruzdeva and Todashev argued about his inability to get her out of jail. He believed Gruzdeva’s imprisonment was a direct result of the FBI’s pressure on the USCIS to take adverse immigration actions on his friends and family. He expressed frustration with the FBI in general and with particular agents that were harassing Gruzdeva and his friend, Khusen Taramov (“Taramov”).
p. On May 21, 2013, Savard contacted Todashev once again to arrange what he referred to as “one last meeting.” The meeting was to include Savard, McFarlane, Massachusetts State Trooper Curtis Cinelli (“Cinelli”), and Massachusetts State Trooper Joel Gagne (“Gagne”). McFarlane, Cinelli, and Gagne were investigating an unsolved triple murder committed in Waltham, Massachusetts in September 2011 that was linked to Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
q. By the agents’ own admissions, very little preparation went into the interrogation despite the fact that the topic of interrogation was a triple murder, the fact that Todashev was very upset over his girlfriend being turned over to immigration services for refusing to inform on him, and the fact that the interrogation was to take place in Todashev’s home without witnesses—not at a properly secured location, such as the OPD. Though, after Gruzdeva’s arrest, Todashev was understandably opposed to any further interrogations at the OPD. Todashev thus suggested a public meeting place. Savard refused, and finally the two agreed upon Todashev’s apartment.
r. Todashev brought Taramov to the interrogation to act as a witness.
s. The interrogation began at approximately 7:00 p.m. on May 21, 2013.
t. The agents made Taramov stay outside with Savard. Taramov and Savard were outside together for approximately four hours.
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u. At the beginning of the interrogation, Taramov reiterated to Savard that Todashev was quite upset about Gruzdeva’s imprisonment. Thus aware of Todashev’s mindset, Savard had the opportunity to be sure the agents inside (i.e., the agents who were interrogating Todashev) knew about Todashev’s mindset. Savard failed to do so.
v. Then, between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m., Savard mysteriously asked Taramov to leave the premises and wait for Todashev at a local hookah bar.
w. Meanwhile, McFarlane, Gagne, and Cinelli had been interrogating Todashev inside the apartment since 7:00 p.m.
x. According to the agents, at around 10:30 p.m., Gagne went outside to call the district attorney and remained there with Savard, leaving McFarlane and Cinelli alone in the apartment with Todashev.
y. Around midnight, after five hours of interrogation, McFarlane shot Todashev. Seven times. Todashev was unarmed with any gun, knife, explosive, or other deadly weapon. Todashev did not pose a threat of serious bodily harm to McFarlane or any other person.
z. No viable justification has been offered to account for MacFarlane’s shooting and killing Todashev. Given (1) Todashev’s history of cooperation with the FBI (despite the FBI’s campaign of harassment against him, his friends, and family); (2) the number of agents available to restrain Todashev at the time of the shooting; and (3) the fact that Todashev was unarmed with any deadly weapon—given all that, logic dictates that MacFarlane’s use of force against Todashev was excessive and unjustified. MacFarlane’s unprivileged use of force therefore constituted an assault and battery against Todashev, which tortious conduct led to Todashev’s wrongful death under Florida law.
aa. Further, the agents involved had a duty to Todashev to refrain from engaging in affirmatively harmful actions without just cause. These actions were designed to escalate conflict and attempt to justify the wrongful use of force.
bb. The agents breached this duty by (1) mounting a campaign of increasing pressure against Todashev from April 15, 2013, through his final hours on May 22, 2013, without just cause, including repeated and unnecessary arrests, searches, and lengthy interrogations; (2) using intimidation, deceit, and other improper means against Todashev, his friends, and family— including threatening to interfere, and actually interfering, with the immigration statuses of Todashev’s friends and family—to coerce Todashev into falsely confessing to crimes he did not commit; (3) agreeing to interview Todashev on the night of May 21, 2013, in a
4
secluded location, without witnesses, even though they knew Todashev was upset over his girlfriend being turned over to immigration services for refusing to inform on Todashev; (5) sending away Taramov—the one witness that could have corroborated the agents’ version of events— shortly before MacFarlane shot Todashev; (6) failing to utilize the agents present, or have a sufficient number of agents present, to minimize the risk of physical altercation and the need for deadly force; (7) failing to appropriately monitor Todashev’s reactions during the interview, including the failure to terminate the interview and/or call for back-up upon the first sign of a physical agitation; (8) using excessive, unnecessary, and unjustified force against Todashev; and finally (9) failing to appreciate the gravity of the pressure they had exerted on Todashev—a pressure that would cause the sanest, most law-abiding citizen to falsely confess to a crime. (10) None of the agents present sought to intervene to prevent the excessive force, though able.
cc. The foregoing breaches of duty were the actual and proximate cause of Todashev’s harm—that is, his death.
dd. Moreover, given MacFarlane’s propensity for misconduct—as evidenced by the lawsuits filed against him, the internal-affairs investigations into his conduct, his involvement in falsifying police reports, and his receipt of disability funds from the Oakland Police Department despite his active employment as an FBI agent—the FBI was negligent in hiring MacFarlane. The FBI was further negligent in supervising MacFarlane’s and the other agents involved, in that the FBI failed to prevent the campaign of harassment the agents waged against Todashev, his friends, and family—-the same campaign that finally resulted in Todashev’s wrongful death. Finally, the FBI was negligent in its investigation of Todashev’s killing. MacFarlane, for example, was never directly interviewed or questioned about the incident by a disinterested investigator.
ee. Upon information and belief, at various dates and times between the time MacFarlane killed Todashev and the present, McFarlane, Cinelli, Gagne, Savard, and other agents/employees of the FBI and the Department of Justice, conspiring with each other, engaged in numerous acts to keep secret information and evidence probative of MacFarlane’s tortious conduct against Todashev.
Exhibit B
10. The nature and extent of Todashev’s injury is death by at least seven gunshot wounds. Todashev’s death on May 22, 2013, was the result of assault, battery, and negligence by FBI agents and negligent hiring/supervision by the FBI—all of which resulted in Todashev’s wrongful death.
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11. The names of all persons with knowledge of this matter are not presently known to claimant. The following individuals are witnesses to one or more of the relevant events. Claimant reserves the right to call additional witnesses and assert additional facts as appropriate as he investigates the facts of this case.
Exhibit C
Partial List of Witnesses

Name

Address

Khusen Taramov



Tatyana Gruzdeva

Reniya Manukyan


Ashur Miraliev



Curtis Cinelli
Joel Gagne


Christopher John Savard
Aaron McFarlane

15. Claimants had no insurance for the harms claimed.
16. No insurance claims have been filed. Claimant does not believe that the events for which this claim is made were covered by any insurance policies he maintained.
19. Claimant did not carry public liability insurance and no property damage claims are made herein.

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