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Murder victim's family sues FBI over disconnected call

Says clerk's error led to rampage by Gary Sampson

The family of a man murdered by Gary Lee Sampson in July 2001 filed a $10 million lawsuit yesterday against the FBI and a former FBI clerk, who disconnected a telephone call that Sampson made to the FBI's Boston office in a bid to surrender on the day before he went on a killing rampage.

The suit, filed in US District Court in Boston, alleges that William Anderson hung up on Sampson on July 23, 2001, "intentionally or recklessly and negligently," and failed to track or trace the call -- resulting in the abduction and murder of Philip McCloskey the next day.

"I'm sure [Anderson] feels very badly about it . . . we are, however, responsible for our own actions or inactions," said Brockton attorney Kevin J. Reddington, who filed the suit on behalf of the McCloskeys. "No effort was made to apprehend [Sampson]. And even if there was an inadvertent disconnect of the call, there was nothing but a coverup after that."

Sampson, a drifter from Abington, was convicted last year of carjacking and killing McCloskey, 69, of Taunton, and Jonathan Rizzo, 19, of Kingston, and became the first person in Massachusetts sentenced to die under the federal death penalty. After duping both men into giving him a ride, Sampson led them to secluded areas, tied them up, and repeatedly stabbed them.

Sampson, who has also admitted killing Robert "Eli" Whitney, 59, of Penacook, N.H., during that same week in July 2001, is appealing the death sentence.

The federal lawsuit also seeks $25 million from Sampson, who is indigent.

After his arrest on July 31, 2001, Sampson confessed to the slayings and told police he was also wanted for bank robberies in North Carolina and had tried to surrender to the FBI the day before he went on his killing rampage. Sampson said he called the FBI's Boston office from a pay phone in Abington, gave his location, and waited for several hours, but no one showed up to arrest him.

FBI officials initially said they could find no evidence to support Sampson's contention and said all of their employees denied any knowledge of such a call. It was only after the FBI subpoenaed telephone records from a pay phone outside an Abington convenience store that Anderson admitted he had lied when questioned by his superiors.

Anderson, a clerical worker who was filling in for a switchboard operator at lunchtime when he took the call from Sampson, said he had inadvertently disconnected the call when trying to switch it to an agent. He was sentenced last year to six months in prison for lying under oath about the phone call when he initially denied talking to Sampson.

Boston lawyer Michael Collora, who represents Anderson, said yesterday, "The evidence in the criminal case was that he accidentally, in transferring the call, disconnected it. There was no way at the time to determine who the caller was or their location."

Collora said Anderson, who is seriously ill with diabetes, lost his job with the FBI after 17 years, as well as his pension, and was "extremely apologetic" at his sentencing.

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