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High court rejects appeal from Md. contractor freed from Cuba

Jailed American Alan Gross poses during a November 2012 visit by Rabbi Elie Abadie and U.S. lawyer James L. Berenthal at Finlay military hospital in Havana, Cuba, in this photo provided by Berenthal to the Associated Press.

Jailed American Alan Gross poses during a November 2012 visit by Rabbi Elie Abadie and U.S. lawyer James L. Berenthal at Finlay military hospital in Havana, Cuba, in this photo provided by Berenthal to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear the appeal of a lawsuit against the U.S. government brought by a Maryland man who returned home late last year after five years in jail in Cuba.

The man, Alan Gross, was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Cuba when he was arrested in 2009.

Gross brought a $60 million lawsuit blaming the federal government for failing to prepare him for the risks of working in Cuba.

His wife and others said he was there to set up Internet access for the small Jewish community in Cuba.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled last year that the U.S. government is immune from claims arising in a foreign country.

Gross was freed in December — on the first day of Hannukah, he noted — as the U.S. announced it would re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. He scored a prime viewing spot at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January: a seat near first lady Michelle Obama.

Gross’s case had been championed by the Maryland congressional delegation.

The Supreme Court decision does not leave Gross without some recompense for his ordeal.

In a separate case, he received $3.2 million from the federal government in December as part of a settlement with the company he worked for at the time of his arrest.

The USAID said it paid Gross to settle claims pending before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals for unanticipated claims under a cost-reimbursement contract with the company, Development Alternatives Inc., of Bethesda.

The USAID said the settlement was not an admission of liability, but was intended to avoid the costs and risks of further legal proceedings.

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