Lawyers representing the Army and the Defense Department have asked for a 14-month delay in the civil trial pitting the victims of the Fort Hood shooting against the government.
In a motion filed Friday, lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Pentagon state that allowing the hearing to go forward would adversely affect the integrity of Maj. Nidal Hasan’s impending court-martial.
Jury selection for Hasan’s trial begins in one week. The 42-year-old Army psychiatrist could face the death penalty if convicted of charges stemming from the Nov. 5, 2009, mass shooting on post.
The plaintiffs in the case are about 200 victims and family members of people killed, wounded or otherwise traumatized by the shooting. They have sued the Army, the Department of Defense and Hasan for benefits they believe should be afforded to them because of the nature of the attack.
Shooting victim Alonzo Lunsford, who was shot seven times and now suffers from PTSD, traumatic brain injury and is blind in one eye, said the Army has overlooked the effects the shooting has had on him and his family.
“They’re treating him, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, like he’s the (expletive) victim,” Lunsford said.
In a video recently posted on a website that advocates for the plaintiffs, some of the victims state that the military’s decision to designate the shooting as workplace violence, as opposed to terrorism, has adversely affected their ability to collect benefits.
The video, titled “Broken Promises?” is available at truthaboutforthood.com and is the second video posted on the website since the civil suit was filed on the three-year anniversary of the shooting.
The Army’s decision to not classify the shooting as terrorism was made in order to not affect Hasan’s criminal trial.
The motion builds on that argument, stating the government cannot argue that Hasan committed the shooting until after the criminal trial concludes.
It also states that entering into any settlement with the victims could create suspicions of witness tampering, since many of the victims will be called as witnesses in the criminal trial.
“In short, the hands of the Secretaries of Defense and the Army are tied, and they cannot effectively respond in this civil action without risking negatively affecting the court-martial,” the motion stated.
The lead prosecutor in Hasan’s court-martial, Col. Mike Mulligan, also filed a declaration with the motion, stating it would create further delays for the criminal trial.
Mulligan stated it would put the government-led prosecution in a precarious position, with one arm of the federal government working with victims for an affective prosecution, while another simultaneously works against the plaintiffs in their defense against civil charges.
“Such actions have the possibility of lessening the willingness of those plaintiffs who will testify in the criminal case to support the government in its prosecution,” Mulligan said.