Ex-marshal's appeal in LSD case is denied

By grandbaby · Jul 2, 2006 · ·
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    Ex-marshal's appeal in MKULTRA LSD case is denied
    A federal appeals court, with misgivings, ruled Monday that a former deputy marshal failed to prove he had been drugged with LSD as part of a then-secret CIA mind-control program before trying to hold up a San Francisco bar in 1957.

    While upholding a federal judge's dismissal of Wayne Ritchie's lawsuit, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was "quite possible'' that Ritchie was telling the truth -- that the CIA, which later admitted testing LSD on unwitting U.S. citizens, had slipped the drug into his drink at a Christmas party, as a federal agent hinted in sworn testimony.

    "This is a troubling case,'' Judge Alex Kozinski said in the 3-0 ruling. "If Ritchie's claims are indeed true, he has paid a terrible price in the name of national security.''

    But he said there was evidence to support U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel's conclusion that the more likely cause of Ritchie's behavior was "some undiagnosed organic condition,'' possibly aggravated by alcohol he drank that day.

    Ritchie, now 79 and living in San Jose, was a 30-year-old deputy U.S. marshal and Marine Corps veteran with a spotless record in December 1957. According to his testimony, he had four or five bourbon and sodas over several hours, left the Christmas party, and soon started feeling overwhelmed by paranoia and a feeling of worthlessness.

    He retrieved his two revolvers from his office, tried to rob a bar in the Fillmore district, got distracted and was hit over the head and knocked unconscious. Ritchie pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and was fined $500. He quit his job and worked as a house painter for the next 34 years.

    In 1999, Ritchie read a newspaper article about the Cold War program known as MKULTRA and concluded he may have been one of its victims. [bAccording to congressional testimony and other records, federal agents, looking unsuccessfully for methods to control human consciousness, gave mind-altering drugs to volunteers and unknowing subjects for at least a decade, starting in the early 1950s. [/b]

    The government paid $750,000 to the widow of one MKULTRA subject who committed suicide in 1953.

    MKULTRA agent Ike Feldman, who worked in San Francisco, told Ritchie's lawyer, Sidney Bender, in a sworn deposition that he had drugged 10 to 12 people. Apparently referring to his subjects, he said, "You just back away and let them worry, like this nitwit, Ritchie,'' who had been given "a full head'' and "deserved to suffer.''

    But Patel said Bender had never asked Feldman directly whether he drugged Ritchie. She also said Ritchie, who knew Feldman, did not recall seeing him at the party. The judge noted that Ritchie admitted he had a plausible motive for the robbery -- getting money to buy his girlfriend a plane ticket -- although he also said he had expected to be caught and imprisoned.

    In Monday's ruling, the appeals court said Feldman may have been admitting that he drugged Ritchie, but he also could have been speaking sarcastically, imprecisely or untruthfully, and it was up to Ritchie's lawyer to pin him down.

    Kozinski said Patel, who dismissed the suit after hearing Ritchie's side of the case in a nonjury trial last year, was not clearly wrong in her conclusion that Ritchie had failed to prove he was drugged. Kozinski also said the CIA's destruction of documents about MKULTRA did not require Patel to rule in Ritchie's favor as a penalty against the government.

    Bender said he would appeal the ruling. He said Feldman's deposition should have been enough to confirm Ritchie's story.

    "He admitted drugging Ritchie,'' Bender said. "That wasn't ambiguous. ... It was plain English.''

    Ex-marshal's appeal in LSD case is denied
    Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
    Tuesday, June 27, 2006


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    Government Mind Games
    A CIA Mickey --
    Lawsuit claims LSD was put in veteran's drink in 1957

    Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
    Sunday, July 14, 2002

    Until the night of an office Christmas party in 1957, Wayne Ritchie was a Marine Corps veteran, a deputy U.S. marshal and a solid citizen. Overcome by what he later described as depression and a delusion that everyone had turned against him, he tried to hold up a bar that night in San Francisco's Fillmore District.
    Spared a prison sentence, Ritchie quit his job in disgrace, spent years fighting off suicidal urges and for more than three decades lived with guilt and self-contempt -- until a 1999 newspaper article propelled him into federal court with a lawsuit against the U.S. government that could soon go to trial.
    The article was an obituary of Sidney Gottlieb, director of a CIA mind- control project called MKULTRA, in which LSD and other drugs were given to hundreds of unsuspecting Americans during the Cold War. Ritchie believes he may have been one of the guinea pigs, especially after the diary of a federal agent involved in MKULTRA showed he may have been at the same 1957 Christmas party attended by Ritchie.
    Ritchie, now 75 and living in San Jose, "felt that a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders," said psychiatrist James S. Ketchum in a report filed in federal court this April. "He wept when he called his brother with the news."
    Ketchum's report, based on six hours of interviews with Ritchie last year, a review of the case records and research on drugs and the CIA, concluded the federal marshal had been a victim of the "covert administration of LSD or an LSD-like substance."
    Government lawyers said their own psychiatric expert had determined Ritchie was probably drunk and certainly wasn't on LSD. They accused Ritchie of concocting the drugging theory to cash in on publicity about MKULTRA, the subject of congressional hearings in the 1970s and a 1997 movie, "Conspiracy Theory."
    But a new ruling by a federal judge in San Francisco may have removed the major obstacles to a trial of the former marshal's $12 million damage suit. The suit claims invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision of government employees.


    MKULTRA, the government's search for chemicals or techniques to control human consciousness, was largely a response to reports of brainwashing of American prisoners during the Korean War.
    According to congressional testimony and other records, the CIA and federal narcotics agents started giving mind-altering drugs to prison volunteers as well as unsuspecting government employees and private citizens in the early 1950s and continued to do so for at least a decade.
    "We tested these drugs in bars, in restaurants, in so-called massage parlors, any place where there was a drink and people were eating and drinking, " said MKULTRA operative Ike Feldman in a 1999 documentary on the Arts and Entertainment cable network.
    Because of the secrecy and destruction of records, many victims were never told what happened to them, said Ritchie's lawyer, Sidney Bender.
    One unwitting subject, Army chemist Frank Olson, jumped to his death from a hotel window in 1953 under the influence of LSD that had been slipped into a glass of Cointreau. Congress approved a $750,000 payment to his widow in 1976.
    The U.S. government later paid a total of $750,000 to settle a suit by nine Canadians who learned they had been the subjects of MKULTRA experiments during psychiatric treatment in the mid-1950s.


    At least one lawsuit has gone to trial. It ended in a government victory in 1999. The suit was filed by Bender on behalf of the daughter of Stanley Glickman, an American art student who suffered hallucinations and long-lasting psychiatric damage after being given a drink by a fellow American in Paris in 1952.
    Before his death in 1992, Glickman said the stranger who gave him the drink resembled the club-footed Gottlieb, but a New York federal jury that examined government travel records decided Gottlieb had not been in Paris at the time.
    Ritchie's case may depend on the whereabouts of a man named George White, who in 1957 was a federal Bureau of Narcotics agent and ran MKULTRA in the Bay Area.
    White kept a diary that read, for the day in question, "home flu -- xmas party Fed bldg Press Room." White was never asked about the entry before his death in 1975, and its meaning is disputed by the opposing sides. Ritchie argues the entry shows White either attended the party or was in touch with other agents who were there. The government says it shows White stayed home.
    Ritchie, then 30, had been a deputy marshal since 1954 after five years in the Marines and a little over a year as a prison guard at Alcatraz. At the party, he downed four or five bourbon and sodas over several hours, then returned to the marshal's office and started feeling strange.
    "I became depressed and was overcome with a sense that all my friends and acquaintances had turned against me," he said in a court declaration. He went outside -- where, according to the psychiatrist's report, he seemed to be walking in a tunnel without effort and with increasing feelings of paranoia -- and stopped at several bars, where he conceived the idea of getting money for his girlfriend to buy a plane ticket to New York, something she had once mentioned in jest.


    He retrieved his two service revolvers, drove to the Fillmore bar, demanded money, got distracted and was hit over the head and knocked unconscious. When police arrived, he tearfully asked one officer if he could spare a bullet and save the state some money.
    A Chronicle story two days later was headlined, "Good Guy Fails as Bad Guy. " Ritchie pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and was fined $500 and given a suspended sentence.
    "He remained severely depressed for at least six years, and experienced disturbing flashbacks and nightmares," said Ketchum's psychiatric report. "His self-esteem was destroyed, and his lifestyle changed from that of an outgoing, cheerful and ambitious marshal to that of a guilt-ridden, self-depriving, subdued house painter, with recurrent suicidal urges."
    Ritchie painted houses for 34 years before retiring in 1992, and now lives with his wife on his union pension and Social Security. He said his lawyer has told him not to discuss the case.
    In her ruling rejecting the government's attempt to dismiss the suit, Chief U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel said the usual deadline for such personal-injury claims -- two years after the injury occurred -- might not apply to Ritchie's suit more than 40 years after the Christmas party. She said the evidence could show that, because of government concealment, Ritchie had no reason to know what had happened to him before reading the 1999 obituary.
    "A reasonable person who had never used LSD would not think he had been exposed to it," the judge said in her July 1 decision. She noted that Ritchie denied previous knowledge of MKULTRA and that the government destroyed records of the program in the 1970s.


    The government also sought dismissal on the grounds that the alleged injury occurred while Ritchie was on duty at the Christmas party and was covered, at most, by workers' compensation benefits, which Ritchie never sought. But Patel said the normal risks of a marshal's job do not include involuntary drugging by the CIA.
    Patel did not discuss whether the evidence presented so far supported Ritchie's LSD claim. In a case that concerns decades-old events with scanty records and few living witnesses, that question might not be resolved even by a trial -- which, under the federal law on damage suits against the government,
    would be conducted by Patel without a jury.
    The Justice Department is making a final attempt to dismiss the suit without a trial by arguing that Ritchie has presented no evidence, beyond speculation, that federal agents caused his injuries. The motion is pending before Patel.
    The government denies that Ritchie was an MKULTRA subject and says the likely explanation is the one he himself believed for more than 40 years -- that he was drunk. They cite his admission that he often had 12 to 25 drinks on weekend nights at the time and that he had been drinking before the robbery attempt.
    Psychiatrist Henry D. Abraham, in a declaration filed by the government, said Ritchie's actions that evening showed few of the known symptoms of LSD use and included "a complicated set of planned behaviors" that would be difficult after taking the drug.
    But Ketchum countered that Ritchie had never reacted that way to alcohol before and showed clear signs of LSD intoxication -- a debate that may soon be replayed in court.
    E-mail Bob Egelko at [email protected].
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