Attorneys for a Delaware-based aircraft recovery group filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges the organization solicited search funds for Amelia Earhart’s disappeared plane after it had already been found.
Wyoming plaintiff Timothy Mellon claims that The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) withheld the news of its discovery in order to squeeze $1 million from him to pay for a later, superfluous search. Mellon, of Riverside, is the son of the late philanthropist Paul Mellon.
TIGHAR officials say the wreckage has yet to be found.
The suit, which was filed in June in federal court in Wyoming, asserts that video footage from a 2010 expedition near Nikumaroro, an island in the South Pacific, shows wreckage of the Lockheed Electra flown by Earhart when she disappeared in 1937. Mellon said TIGHAR Executive Director Richard Gillespie solicited contributions from him in March 2012.
“… Mr. Gillespie represented that the wreckage had not been found and expressed optimism that by utilizing additional tools a discovery was possible during the NIKU VII (later) expedition,” the original complaint states.
On Monday, when attorneys for TIGHAR and Gillespie asked a federal judge to dismiss the racketeering suit, they based their arguments solely on the complaint’s failure to meet legal requirements.
“Nonetheless, Defendants unequivocally and adamantly deny each and every allegation of misconduct against them,” the motion states.
The defendants’ response primarily contends that the complaint’s factual allegations are vague, legally insufficient and incapable of holding water in court. It claims that the plaintiff “makes no attempt to articulate the time, place and contents of any representations, who made them, and the consequences of them.”
The defendant’s motion additionally serves as conduit to scoff at the idea that such a discovery could conceivably be hidden from the world. Attorneys say the plaintiffs possess no definitive proof of such a discovery.
“What must be believed to allow this matter to go forward is a chain of events, conspiracy, decision-making and actions that defies all logic,” the document states.
One of the defendants’ attorneys, John Masterson from the Casper firm Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons LLP, said his clients don’t see in the videos what Mellon claims to see in the underwater videos. Among Mellon’s claims are human remains, a toilet and a toilet seat, a banjo and case and toilet paper rolls, according to Monday’s motion.
A post on TIGHAR’s website reportedly authored by Mellon showcases several video stills of the expedition, and complementary arrows pointing to features he believes to be of evidentiary value. In two images designated “not appropriate for children,” the author highlights what he believes to be the various body parts of the pilot and her navigator, Fred Noonan.
“I have looked at that video 100 times, and there’s nothing there but coral,” Gillespie told the Star-Tribune. “I wish there was! I’ve been searching for Amelia Earhart for 25 years. If there was anything there, I would be all over it.”
Mellon is represented by attorneys from the Billings, Mont., and Casper branches of Crowley Fleck PLLP, who were unavailable for comment Monday afternoon.
Reach crime reporter Megan Cassidy at 307-266-0534 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meganrcassidy.