Dartmouth Medical School psychiatry professor William Weeks who was acquitted of conflict-of-interest charges brought against him by the federal government in April was awarded $800,000 in a settlement with the federal government this week as compensation for “violations of human rights and privacy,” he said.
As a result of the April charges, Weeks filed the lawsuit against the government for unlawful suspension from his position at the Department of Veterans Affairs and improper investigation into the charges brought against him.
The federal government had accused Weeks of initiating five fixed-priced contracts in 2003 on behalf of the VA and performing the work as the College’s principal investigator. A Vermont jury acquitted Weeks in April 2010.
Weeks said that, despite his victory, government compensation cannot undo the pain he and his family have suffered as a result of the charges. The Valley News reported that over the course of the investigation against him, Weeks “plundered his savings to pay for his legal defense, separated from his wife, and attempted suicide on three occasions.”
Weeks’ attorney Bob O’Neill said that he is glad Weeks no longer will have to live under the shadow of the investigations.
“I don’t know how you could be satisfied with what happened in this case,” he said. “The U.S. Attorney’s office in Vermont inflicted untold miseries on Weeks and his family for what a Vermont jury found to be nothing.”
Weeks said he plans to continue his research at Dartmouth but he finds it unfortunate that veterans will no longer benefit from his research on rural veterans health care.
“I’m going to begin to try to put my life together again and help my family work through this,” he said.
Weeks and O’Neill, began proceedings of a case against the government in April 2009, before charges had been brought against him.
Investigators violated the law when they contacted Weeks’s supervisors at the VA and had him suspended from his job, according to O’Neill, because the case was not reviewed by a grand jury and the charges only amounted to a misdemeanor. Investigators also searched Weeks’s office without a search warrant, he said.
The settlement requires Weeks to not pursue any further cases against the government and also that the government not pursue further lawsuits against him, according to Weeks.
Weeks said he was pleased with the settlement, which he called “another humiliating defeat” for the U.S. Attorney’s office.
“I hope they will reconsider how they do business and hopefully re-find their way,” he said.
United States Attorney Tristram Coffin told the Valley News that the government decided to pursue both criminal and civil cases against Weeks because “it was in the public’s interest to do so.”
The decision to come to a settlement was based on the VA’s desire to conclude the matter, according to the Valley News. Weeks will resign from the VA as part of the settlement, according to O’Neill.
O’Neill, who served as a federal prosecutor for almost 10 years, said government officials have to be “tempered by fairness and justice” in their actions qualities he did not see in the Vermont attorneys.
Weeks said he was particularly happy with the settlement because of how rare it is to see an individual to take on the government.
“It’s unheard of to win not once but twice and to win that much money,” he said.
The government spent millions of dollars to come to no end point, according to Weeks.
“It is very timely that elections are coming up,” he said, “People will be questioning the value of big government and this case fits with those questions.”