CLEVELAND (AP) _ A federal magistrate has recommended dismissing a $12 million lawsuit against the Navy filed by the family of a sailor mistakenly blamed for a blast aboard the USS Iowa that killed 47 sailors.

U.S. Magistrate David Perelman said Tuesday that the defamation suit should be dismissed because the federal government is immune from such cases.

U.S. District Judge George White will decide whether to accept or reject Perelman's recommendation.

The family of Gunner's Mate Clayton Hartwig contends Navy officials leaked false allegations to make Hartwig the scapegoat for the explosion during an exercise 300 miles north of Puerto Rico on April 19, 1989. Hartwig died in the blast.

In 1991, the Navy said there was no ``clear and convincing proof'' that Hartwig was to blame and apologized to his family. It said that despite a $25 million investigation it couldn't find the cause of the explosion.

In 1993, Hartwig's family filed the lawsuit, saying they suffered emotional distress from the Navy's public disclosure of confidential statements and false information.

Kathy Kubicina, Hartwig's sister, said Perelman's decision to dismiss the family's case disappointed her.

``My whole life stopped in 1989,'' she said Tuesday. ``It just amazes me that this suit could be dismissed. I don't understand it.''