CHICAGO, Illinois – Three Islamic charities and an alleged fund-raiser for the Palestinian militant group Hamas (search) were ordered Wednesday to pay $156 million to the parents of an American teenager killed by terrorists outside Jerusalem.
A federal jury deliberated for one day before awarding $52 million in damages to the parents of David Boim, shot down at a bus stop eight years ago. U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys then tripled the damages.
But it is uncertain whether the family can collect much money from the defendants, some of whom have had their assets frozen by the government.
Joyce and Stanley Boim, parents of the slain teenager, showed no emotion as the jurors announced the verdict. Their attorneys smiled broadly.
"I finally have justice for David," said Joyce Boim, who had sat in the courtroom reading from the Book of Psalms (search) in Hebrew while awaiting the verdict.
Before the trial started, the judge had found the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (search), the Islamic Association for Palestine and alleged Hamas fund-raiser Mohammed Salah liable in Boim's death.
The jury found that the Quranic Literacy Institute of suburban Oak Lawn, a group that translates Islamic religious texts, was also responsible for the shooting.
Salah and Holy Land are both currently under federal indictment on charges of stemming from their alleged support of Hamas.
The Boims, Americans who moved to Israel in 1985, sued under a U.S. law that allows victims of terrorism abroad to collect damages in American courts from organizations that furnish money to terrorist groups.
The weeklong trial focused on the Quranic Literacy Institute and its relationship with Salah, who claimed to be an employee and served five years in prison in the Mideast in the 1990s after pleading guilty to funneling money to Hamas.
The institute's attorney, John Beal, refused to take any active part in the trial. He said the judge didn't provide enough time to prepare a defense.
Beal repeatedly insisted there was an innocent explanation for each of the allegations. He said the case would be appealed.
Amer Haleem, the secretary of the Quranic Literacy Institute, criticized the trial as unfair and as part of a wave of persecution of American Muslims.
For the Boims and their supporters, however, there was hope the verdict would help dry up the flow of funds to Mideast terrorists. They also said they hoped it would alert Americans, including Muslims who had contributed to the charities in good faith, that terrorists raise funds in America.
The damages awarded were "generous but appropriate," said Boim attorney Steven Landes. "The jury obviously felt the pain of the Boim family." He speculated, however, that the case "may wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court."
Jurors left the courthouse without comment.
The chances of the Boims actually collecting anything like $156 million are slim.
Even before they filed their suit, the federal government had frozen the assets of Salah and Quranic Literacy Institute. Haleem estimated the amount of the group's assets frozen at $1.4 million.
The assets of Holy Land Foundation, estimated by Landes at a maximum of $5 million, were frozen after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; a federal indictment against the group asks for the money to be forfeited permanently.