24 Ex-Officials Immune From Elian Lawsuit

MIAMI -- Former attorney general Janet Reno and other federal officials have immunity from an excessive-force lawsuit filed by the Miami relatives of young Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez, an appellate court ruled.

Reno, former Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner Doris Meissner and former deputy attorney general Eric Holder cannot be sued for their official actions unless it can be shown that they knew the agents would violate the Gonzalez family's rights when they seized the boy, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling made public yesterday.

The family did not meet that standard, the Atlanta-based court said, reversing a lower court ruling.

Family attorney Larry Klayman said a new version of the lawsuit would be filed with language that would meet legal scrutiny. Armando Gutierrez, who served as a spokesman for the Gonzalez family, said the ruling was "a bad decision, and I hope that the lawyers appeal it."

Armed federal agents removed Elian, then 6, from the family's home before dawn April 22, 2000, five months after he was rescued from the Atlantic Ocean. His mother and others died trying to reach Florida by boat.

He had been turned over to his Miami relatives pending a ruling on whether he would be returned to his father in Cuba, but the family balked when the government decided he should go.

Reno ordered the raid, and within hours Elian was reunited with his father. The pair soon returned to Cuba.

The Miami relatives alleged the agents used excessive force. People who were at the house said they were kicked, punched, thrown to the ground, held at gunpoint, restrained and exposed to pepper spray and tear gas.

* ANCHORAGE -- Two young brothers who disappeared two weeks ago have been found dead in a partly frozen pond half a mile from their home. Police had believed the brothers were abducted when they vanished March 10. The bodies of 8-year-old Malcolm Johnson and 5-year-old Isaiah were recovered from the frozen pond Tuesday evening.

* ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- County commissioners agreed to buy 24 acres adjacent to Fort Mose, home of the first free black settlement in North America, to stop development of the property. Colonial Spanish Florida's Gov. Manuel Montiano established Fort Mose in 1738 as a sanctuary for Africans challenging enslavement in South Carolina and Georgia. It was abandoned in 1740 and reestablished at a nearby site in 1752.

* EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- Preliminary autopsy results confirmed that a body found in a lake is that of a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student missing since November, police said. Michael Noll, 22, was one of four young people -- three men and a woman -- who disappeared last fall within 170 miles of one another, all after leaving a bar or a party. Relatives speculated the cases might be linked, but authorities say they do not think so.

* ORLEANS, Mass. -- An endangered North Atlantic right whale spotted last summer entangled in fishing gear was seen again, still snarled in fishing line, off Cape Cod this week.

-- From News Services