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Special Reports Last Updated: Jan 18th, 2007 - 01:52:20

The many trials of 9/11 widow Ellen Mariani
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Jan 18, 2007, 01:42

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You�ve probably seen her name in 9/11 reports, heard it in discussions. There�s a reference to it in my article 9/11 and the Greenberg Familia in Online Journal. Among other things, that article brings you a list of items that the notorious Greenberg-Traurig law firm was involved in.

Item six is of particular relevance to Ellen Mariani:

�6) Traurig Greenberg works with 9-11 victims on planning their US government �hushmail/bribery estates.� That is, to receive the money [on average about $1.6 million] the victim�s family must sign an agreement never to sue the government [or the airlines] for any reason. Victim-wife Ellen Mariani is currently being legally harassed for not signing and for holding the Bush government�s feet to the fire.�

Tom Flocco�s article link above details the harrowing tale of Ellen now engaged in a legal battle to maintain control of her late husband Neil�s estate, as she continues to seek information, evidence, and accountability related to September 11.

As Flocco points out and Ellen tells me, the challenge to whether she will continue to control Neil Mariani�s estate was filed by Mariani�s step-daughter, Lauren Peters, no less. Peters met with attorney Daniel Bakinowski in the Boston office of the international Greenberg Traurig law firm based in Miami. The firm also has links to both President Bush and his brother, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

In fact, Greenberg Traurig represented President Bush in the 2000 Florida election vote recount. A Greenberg attorney personally represents former Governor Jeb Bush. Greenberg Traurig hired son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Election Day 2000. Subsequently, Justice Scalia cast one of the deciding votes that placed Bush in the White House some seven weeks later.

To add insult to Mariani�s injury, the suit against the New Hampshire widow, brought by her stepdaughter, accuses her of incompetence in her capacity as estate administratix. All because Mariani refused to accept a financial settlement from the 9/11 Victim Compensation fund, as administered by �Special Master� and intimidator Kenneth Feinberg.

By law, Peters participates in any settlement or judgment. By New Hampshire law, Lauren is entitled to half of whatever Ellen would receive.

Mariani told me that Greenberg-Traurig attorney Daniel Bakinowsky met with her late husband�s daughter Lauren Peters in February 2003. Ironically, before that date, Lauren Peters was all for Mariani�s suit against United Airlines. Neil was on the UA Boeing 767 Flight 175 that left on September 11,2001, from Logan Airport at 8:42 am en route to Los Angeles. It struck the South Tower at 9:03 am.

Neil had driven Ellen to Logan at 4 am that ill-fated morning to catch her 6 am flight to Los Angeles to attend her daughter�s wedding there on September 15. Her daughter is one of four children from her first marriage. Lauren Peters was Neil�s daughter from his first marriage. Neil and Ellen found their lives renewed in their 13-year second marriage. Neil, who had originally not planned to attend the wedding, changed his mind at the last minute and bought a ticket online for Flight 175. Ellen had an attic sale to raise the money.

The couple said their goodbyes as the sun came up, kissed three times, and parted. Ellen�s 6 am American Trans-Air flight involved a layover at Midway in Chicago, which is about two hours flying time from Logan. After Ellen re-boarded at Midway to complete the second lap of the flight, the plane was delayed on the runway then returned to the gate. UA said there were mechanical difficulties.

The Kafkaesque treatment begins

In the linked Snowshoe Films� documentary, Ellen tells of her subsequent Kafkaesque ordeal at the hands of United Airlines on 9/11, continuing to a departure she had to demand on 9/14 to Los Angeles to catch her daughter�s wedding. This as United played games with her head. She details as well her meetings and clashes with her first lawyers, the government, and �Special Master� of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund Kenneth Feinberg.

Mariani also tells of filing with her attorney, Phil Berg, the RICO suit against the Bush administration, using the law drafted to go after organized crime. This linked documentary was given in tandem with Ellen being a speaker at the San Francisco 9-11 Inquiry.

Subsequently, it took two hearings in the New Hampshire courts to realize her and her stepdaughter�s rights as private citizens to pursue their joint legitimate claims to obtain relevant evidence and information that would help them solve Neil Mariani�s wrongful death suit. In the process, Ellen Mariani has had to defend herself as if she were on trial.

On September 10, 2003, a day short of two years after Neil�s death, two years after fighting United Airlines, various attorneys, harassment letters, callers, and provocateurs linked to the 9/11 Victim�s Compensation Fund, her new attorney, Phil Berg, restated Ellen Mariani�s quest for full discovery in the 9/11 case to proceed.

During this time, Ellen Mariani also discovered that the Red Cross never fully compensated victims' family members in keeping with the amounts that the public generously contributed out of genuine sympathy for those families. More and more, the Red Cross asked for information that only stalled access to the victims� families� fund, which could cover mounting bills.

The Red Cross red tape forced needy families into the beckoning arms of US Attorney General John Ashcroft and Special Master Kenneth Feinberg. Just sign here on the dotted line, folks, and let�s keep the US government out of the courtroom. This is what led Ellen to call it �the Feinberg hush fund.�

Yet, as Feinberg controlled fund settlements, he permitted the Red Cross to offer millions from these donations to displaced renters and homeowners who lost no family members. He also shuffled funds to FEMA workers, all of whom should have been paid from FEMA�s established funds budgeted and approved by Congress.

This pattern of stalling and misdirecting funds only exacerbated the plight of victim families. They gave up and gave into Kenneth Feinberg�s Victims Compensation Fund, losing their right to challenge the government in a lawsuit.

Former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, also on the Red Cross Board of Directors, provided additional means for government diversion of Red Cross contributions meant for victims' family. He used the funds to shield key members of the US government from 9/11 accountability. This while extracting promises from victims' families not to sue in exchange for minimal compensation. All in all, a major disgrace was layered on an epic tragedy.

It is this insidious intent of the government that has driven Ellen Mariani to hold out and fight back against the wall of silent wrongdoers who call themselves our defenders. In her Open Letter to the President of the United States of November 27, 2003, she pointed the finger of 9/11 blame squarely at Bush & Company.

Hers is an uncommon valor, even for a 9/11 widow. In fact, the famous �Jersey Girls,� including Kristen Breitweiser, never crossed the line to a lawsuit against Bush, even though Breitweiser is a lawyer. They took the money and signed the agreement not to sue the real culprits� for their culpability. They also turned their backs on Ellen Mariani.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at

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