Thursday, December 16, 2004

Ending with a Whimper

The so-called "Detroit Terrorism Trial" that spun so badly out of control this past summer, resulting in the government's voluntary dismissal of the most serious charges involving a conspiracy to support terrorism, has entered its final stage with a new indictment that has nothing to do with national security or even possible immigration fraud.  On Dec. 15, the government charged the two remaining defendants, Karim Koubriti and Ahmed Hannan, with conspiracy to commit mail fraud related to a false $2,500 insurance claim they filed for a faked auto accident in Dearborn, Michigan.  While this event was mentioned in the first trial as evidence of the defendants raising money to support terrorism, but not separately charged, it is now the sole count against them.  A conviction would put the defendants in the lowest range under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines--assuming they survive the Supreme Court's decision in Booker/Fanfan--but would likely trigger deportation. 

An article in the Detroit News (Dec. 16) reviews the new indictment, and includes the following statement by one defense counsel questioning the government's motive:

"It's my view that the government is looking to convict these guys because they want them out of the country," said James C. Thomas, a lawyer for Hannan. "Is it face-saving or is it because they are really bad guys? I have yet to see any evidence that these guys are hardened criminals."

U.S. Attorney Craig Morford defended the indictment:

"We openly welcome people into this country, and we also insist that they comply with our laws," Morford said. "What are we supposed to do? Do you just give people a pass and ignore evidence of criminal violations?"

The government's investigation of the lead prosecutor in the first trial is continuing to determine whether his conduct in withholding evidence from the defense constitutes an obstruction of justice or whether the suborned perjury from the government's key cooperating witness, who is now largely discredited. The original defendants appear to be little more than a sideshow at this point.  (ph)

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