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We'll follow up now on the story of a former FBI agent at the center of one of the biggest discrimination cases in the bureau's history. He's now filed a new lawsuit. He says the FBI continues to exact retribution for a case he settled back in 1990. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reports.
DINA TEMPLE-RASTON: Donald Rochon was 37 years old when he filed his landmark discrimination suit against the FBI. Rochon, who's African American, was a young agent in Omaha, Nebraska, when some troubling things started to happen.
Mr. DONALD ROCHON (Suing FBI): One was putting a photograph of a monkey over the face of my children that was on my desk.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Another episode took place shortly after Rochon learned to scuba dive.
Mr. ROCHON: Another one was their ideology about blacks couldn't swim. And they put up a photograph of me and another black person swimming in a garbage dump.
TEMPLE-RASTON: The situation escalated when Rochon and some of his tormentors were transferred to Chicago. He started getting threats. In one instance, white agents said they would cut off his genitals. Then, about a week later, a death and dismemberment insurance policy appeared on Rochon's desk.
Mr. ROCHON: And that was traced back to an FBI agent.
TEMPLE-RASTON: These things didn't happen in the Jim Crow days before the civil rights movement. They took place in 1983 and 1984. FBI Assistant Director John Miller says a lot has changed in 20 years.
Mr. JOHN MILLER (Assistant director, FBI): The FBI in those years has made great strides in making sure that fairness is reached in promotion, in assignments, in discipline, in performance appraisals. And that if there is a problem there are multiple ways to bring that up and ask to have it addressed.
TEMPLE-RASTON: Now, to its credit the Department of Justice took full responsibility for what happened. There were investigations. Agents were disciplined. Rules were changed.
Both the Justice Department and Miller declined to comment on Rochon's new lawsuit. It claims that the FBI — which is responsible for the enforcement of federal civil rights laws — continues to retaliate against Rochon. It says, for example, that a mobster he helped put in jail threatened his life, and the FBI failed to investigate.
As part of his settlement, Rochon was supposed to get his salary and retirement. But one of Rochon's attorneys, Mike Rubin, says that's been a problem, too.
Mr. MIKE RUBIN (Attorney): He was promised that once he reached mandatory retirement age in May of 2007, he would receive full pension like any other employee who had remained at the FBI throughout that entire time period.
TEMPLE-RASTON: When they disagreed over the pension, Rochon filed his new claims. This time, the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder are named. Rochon says a bigger issue is involved here.
Mr. ROCHON: The FBI is kind of using me as an example to scare other employees — whether they be Title VII claimants or whistleblowers — into not making complaints. Otherwise, they're going to be haunted for the rest of their life.
TEMPLE-RASTON: The question now is whether Holder will use this case to look at the issue of race at the bureau — the very issue that he famously said in February the American people were too cowardly to tackle head on.
Again, Mike Rubin.
Mr. RUBIN: What's going on behind the scenes, I don't know. But we're hopeful that he will turn his attention to this and put actions behind the great words that he articulated.
TEMPLE-RASTON: This week, the Justice Department asked the court to give them 45 more days to look at the merits of Rochon's case. A spokesman declined to comment beyond that. Donald Rochon said he's looking forward to hearing what the new administration has to say.
Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News.
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