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Judge halves payment in MOVE police bombing case

The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA- A federal judge cut in half a $12.8 million verdict won by families whose homes were destroyed when police dropped a bomb on a radical group's barricaded rowhouse in 1985.

A jury had awarded the money in April to 24 homeowners whose houses were among about 60 that burned to the ground during the city's battle with MOVE.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam ruled that each of the 24 homeowners is entitled to $250,000, for a total of $6 million. The jury had awarded them $534,583.

Police trying to fight their way into MOVE's rowhouse dropped an explosive on a rooftop bunker, then allowed the flames to spread. Six adults and five children in the MOVE compound died.

The displaced families initially accepted the city's offer to rebuild the lost homes, but the new houses fell apart because of shoddy workmanship. City officials spent millions of dollars on repairs, then decided in 2000 that the buildings were beyond saving and offered the families a take-it-or-leave-it $150,000 buyout.

Some families refused the offer and sued.

Fullam affirmed the jury's finding that the city breached a promise to rebuild good-quality homes, but he reduced the award. Among other things, he overturned the portion consisting of punitive damages, saying the city is legally immune to such penalties.

The homeowners' lawyer, Adrian Moody, said he was elated that the judge found the city liable, but disappointed that the damages were halved.

City officials had no immediate comment.

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