Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, who says the federal government has ruined his life by linking him to the anthrax investigation, was fired yesterday from his job as a bioterrorism trainer at Louisiana State University.
Hatfill was hired as associate director of LSU's National Center for Biomedical Research and Training on July 1 and put on paid leave Aug. 2, the day after FBI agents conducted a second search of his Frederick apartment.
"The university is making no judgment as to Dr. Hatfill's guilt or innocence regarding the FBI investigation," said Chancellor Mark A. Emmert in a brief statement released by the university.
Emmert said the decision to dismiss Hatfill "was not reached quickly or easily" but took into consideration the ability of the university "to fulfill its contractual obligations to funding agencies and to maintain its academic integrity."
University officials, citing privacy rules, declined to elaborate. But Hatfill's $150,000-a-year job at LSU, devising and teaching courses on bioterrorism to emergency personnel, was financed with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which is in charge of the anthrax investigation.
In addition, Hatfill has at times in the past claimed to hold a Ph.D. degree from a South African university that he was never awarded and has falsified his military record. His spokesman, Pat Clawson, has said Hatfill believed he had the doctoral degree and dropped it from his resume when he learned it had not been awarded.
Clawson said the university called Hatfill's attorneys yesterday afternoon and told him of their decision to fire him. No explanation was given.
In a statement, Hatfill blamed the investigation for his firing.
"My life has been completely and utterly destroyed by [Attorney General] John Ashcroft and the FBI," Hatfill said. "I do not understand why they are doing this to me. My professional reputation is in tatters. All I have left are my savings, and they will be exhausted soon because of my legal bills."
Hatfill, 48, who trained as a doctor in Zimbabwe, is among a number of scientists whose expertise and access to the Ames strain of anthrax used in last fall's attacks brought them to investigators' attention.
But he appears to have gotten far more attention than anyone else from FBI agents, who conducted high-profile searches of his apartment, his car, a storage unit he rented in Florida and his girlfriend's apartment in Washington.
In two emotional news conferences last month, Hatfill denied any involvement in the anthrax mailings, which killed five people, and lambasted Ashcroft, the FBI and the media for wrecking his career.
Hatfill worked from 1997 to 1999 for the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, the primary custodian of the virulent Ames strain of anthrax.
Hatfill and another scientist, Joseph Soukup, commissioned a study of a hypothetical anthrax attack in February 1999 as employees of defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., said Ben Haddad,
spokesman for the San Diego-based company.
From 1978 to 1994, Hatfill had lived in southern Africa, where he earned a string of academic degrees and disturbed many of his colleagues with his right-wing rhetoric and what appear to be tall tales of a heroic military career.
He claimed to have served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and to have been discharged after his plane was shot down and he broke his back. However, his military record showed that to be false.
He joined the military in 1975, as the Vietnam War was ending, and was discharged in 1978.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.