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Kaci Hickox, the Doctors Without Borders nurse whom New Jersey forced into quarantine after she treated Ebola patients in West Africa, sued Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday for allegedly imprisoning her against her will.
Christie had "no medical epidemiological or legal grounds to hold me," Hickox said at a news conference in New York. Hickox, 34, who now lives in Oregon, spoke at the news conference via videophone.
Hickox treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone before she returned to the United States on Oct. 24, 2014. She was held in a quarantine tent in New Jersey for a little more than three days before she was released to Maine, her home at the time — which also sought to quarantine her.
But Hickox defied Maine's government, winning a court order that she could come and go as she pleased as long as she submitted to monitoring for infection by the deadly virus.
She later wrote an op-ed column objecting to being identified as the "Ebola nurse" because she never was never infected with the virus.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, seeks $250,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from Christie, former state Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd and other Health Department employees for false imprisonment, violation of due process and invasion of privacy.
It specifically accuses Christie — now a Republican candidate for president — of making false statements that implied that Hickox had symptoms of Ebola when he knew that she didn't.
"I never had symptoms of Ebola. I tested negative for Ebola the first night I stayed in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s private prison," Hickox said in a statement released through the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which is representing her in the lawsuit.
"My liberty, my interests and consequently my civil rights were ignored because some ambitious governors saw an opportunity to use an age-old political tactic: fear," she said.
Christie's office said it couldn't comment on pending legal matters, but it referred reporters to his previous statements on the case. It specifically cited a news conference Christie held in October 2014 while campaigning for Rhode Island Republican gubernatorial nominee Allan Fung, during which Christie was asked about the possibility that Hickox could sue him.
"Well, whatever. Get in line. I've been sued lots of times before," Christie said at the time. "Get in line. I'm happy to take it on."
The state Health Department also said it couldn't comment on pending litigation.
Udi Ofer, executive director the New Jersey ACLU, said Christie's quarantine policy was "unwise, unscientific and unconstitutional," calling the episode "a dark stain on our state's history."