A physician entrepreneur whose New York homes were searched by FBI agents investigating the 2001 anthrax attacks had filed an application for a patent for a surveillance system to identify chemical and biological attacks in September 2001, but the physician's father called the FBI searches "a setup."
Kenneth Berry, M.D., who founded an organization in 1997 that trains medical professionals to respond to chemical and biological attacks, applied for his patent on Sept. 28, 2001, according to the Patent and Trademark Office Web site. He filed for a provisional patent for the system nearly a year earlier, on Oct. 2, 2000. The first anthrax letters were postmarked Sept. 18, 2001, in Trenton, N.J.
The patent was awarded to Berry in March.
"In an era where chemical, biological or nuclear attacks at one or more locations either globally or within a country are possible, it is desirable to have a surveillance system capable of locating and identifying the type of attack so that a rapid response can be initiated," the description of the invention's background read.
Berry's system uses a computer to combine weather data with information on how various concentrations of biological or chemical agents would affect a specific location, according to the patent office filing.
Hours after Thursday's raids in upstate New York and New Jersey, Berry was charged with assault for allegedly fighting with four family members at a seaside motel, authorities said. Berry, 46, of Wellsville, N.Y., was released from jail on $10,000 bond.
More than three dozen agents, some in protective suits, combed through two homes listed in property records as Berry's past and present addresses in Wellsville, a bucolic village of 5,000 residents near the Pennsylvania line in western New York. They wrapped up their daylong search after dark but did not reveal whether they found anthrax, Mayor Brad Thompson said Friday.
About 250 miles to the southeast, the Jersey shore home of Berry's parents was also searched on Thursday. There was no sign of further police activity there Friday.
The physician's father, William Berry, said the FBI was unfairly targeting his son.
"Hey, here's a guy being shafted by the FBI," William Berry said at his home in Newtown, Conn. "It's just buying time because they have nothing on anthrax. You are looking at a setup."
Investigators brought out garbage bags that appeared to be filled with bulky contents, said Jonathan
DeGraw, 26, who rents the house next door. They also removed boxes containing clear plastic bags.
Two flatbed trucks hauled away two vehicles, according to another neighbor, Adam Fadel. One of the vehicles was returned Thursday evening.
An FBI spokesman in Washington said the FBI and Postal Inspection Service were searching in Wellsville and Dover Township, N.J., as part of the anthrax probe. He declined to say what agents were seeking.
Anthrax-laced envelopes were mailed in fall 2001 to government offices and news media. Five people were killed and 17 fell ill, further rattling a nation on edge after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Attorney General John Ashcroft had labeled Steven Hatfill, an Illinois-born, Rhodesian-trained physician and former government scientist and bioweapons expert, as a "person of interest" in the case.
Hatfill, who once worked at the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., has denied any wrongdoing and has sued Ashcroft and other officials, saying his reputation was ruined. The lawsuit is pending. Hatfill attorney Tom Connolly in Washington, D.C., declined to comment Friday on the searches involving Berry.
Berry's father told the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., that his son and Hatfill know each other. Berry's Web site says he presented a bioterrorism paper at Fort Detrick in January 1997.
Hatfill spokesman Patrick Clawson said the two men are not acquainted. "(Hatfill) couldn't pick this guy out of a lineup," he said.
Kenneth Berry was arrested Thursday by police responding to domestic dispute at the White Sands Resort and Spa in the vacation community of Point Pleasant Beach, about 10 miles from Dover Township. Officers there discovered the FBI search warrant after arresting Berry.
Berry told them he had done nothing wrong with anthrax, Point Pleasant Beach Police Chief Daniel DePolo said in a news conference Friday. "He just denied he was guilty of anything," DePolo said.
Berry faces four charges of simple assault. Three of the victims, as well as Berry, required treatment at medical facilities, DePolo said.
Family members had scratches and bruises. Berry told authorities he felt nauseous. The fight happened about 1:20 p.m. as Berry and his family were checking into the motel.
"Apparently, there was a dispute over a cell phone, and it's my understanding that there was a lot of stress from search warrants that were being conducted," DePolo said.
Berry, a New Jersey native, was director of emergency services at Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville until 2001. He resigned after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct to settle charges of forgery.
State police said Berry's signature was on a fake will of the late Andrew Colletta, according to the Wellsville Daily Reporter. While initially charged with two counts of second-degree forgery, the plea to a lesser violation allowed him to keep his medical license.