Federal Officials Close the Investigation into the Death of Martin Lee Anderson

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department will not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against the eight Bay County, Fla., Boot Camp staff members involved in the incident that resulted in the death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, the department announced today.

Officials from the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison, the Community Relations Service and the FBI met today with Anderson’s parents and their representatives to inform them of this determination. The department’s decision is based on the facts developed during a comprehensive independent investigation.

The department devoted significant time and resources to investigate the tragic events of Jan. 5, 2006 in Panama City, Fla., surrounding Anderson’s death. A team of experienced prosecutors and agents reviewed the thousands of pages of evidence generated by the state investigation and criminal trial. They conducted a detailed and lengthy analysis of a NASA-enhanced video recording of the events that preceded Anderson’s death. Federal officials also took numerous additional investigative steps, including, but not limited to, conducting independent interviews of more than 40 witnesses and a review of Bay County Boot Camp procedures.

Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an official "willfully" deprived an individual of a constitutional right, meaning that the official acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is the highest standard of intent imposed by law. It is different and higher than the intent required for proof of the state offense with which the staff members had been charged. Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation.

After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that the evidence was insufficient to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges. Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed.