Oct 27, 2010
FBI 17 Years Wiretap into Alleged Muslim Terrorist Activities by Phoenix Man
Nets a Mere 18 months for "Martha Stewart" type "false statements" to the FBI!
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - A local respected Muslim leader, facing a potential 96 months sentence for allegedly lying to the FBI during an interrogation that he voluntarily appeared for over a two (2) day period of deceptive interrogation accepts an 18 months sentence to avoid a possible 96 months sentence in Federal Court in Phoenix Arizona.
PHOENIX, AZ. - A judge criticized government agents but still sentenced an Arizona man Thursday to 18 months in prison for lying to FBI investigators who were looking into a Muslim charity group that raised money to help the terrorist group Hamas.
[Joseph Shemaria ( Federal Criminal Lawyer in Los Angeles) client] Akram Musa Abdallah entered a plea deal to the charge of making false statements to the government called for a sentence of 18 months to two years, although he could have received up to eight years.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake said he chose the lowest sentence possible under the agreement because there was little actual harm to the government.
Wake also sharply criticized FBI agents who questioned Abdallah in 2007 as part of an effort to get him to testify in the Texas trial of five leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which raised money for Hamas.
The FBI was interviewing Abdallah, a resident of Mesa in 2007, about his mid-1990s fundraising for the Holy Land Foundation. Agents had wiretapped his conversations and knew that he had actively done fundraising while he was an imam at a Phoenix mosque.
But he denied that to the agents.
Wake said a review of the transcripts of two hours-long interviews showed that the alleged lies were relatively minor and could have been explained as memory lapses.
The judge said it appeared the government used its power to try to get Abdallah to change his story to help build the case against the Holy Land Foundation leaders who were convicted in a Dallas federal court in 2008 of bankrolling schools and social welfare programs that prosecutors said were controlled by Hamas.
"The FBI agents asked all they wanted and he answered, and then they told him he was lying and had better improve his story or they would charge him," Wake said.
"We're all familiar with societies that threaten people in order to get them to testify against others," he said. "That's not our society."
Abdallah pleaded guilty to the single lying charge in May. But his lawyer, Joseph Shemaria, argued during a December hearing that the judge should not apply the so-called terrorism enhancement, which could increase the sentence.
"That's the part that will cause people to shun him," Shemaria said before Thursday's hearing. "He believes he's a loyal American, and he had nothing to do with obstructing an investigation into international terrorism."
Wake ruled Thursday that he would apply the terrorism enhancement when determining if the sentence in the plea deal was appropriate.
Shemaria said he was considering advising his client to withdraw his plea before that ruling because of Wake's comments.
But if the case went to trial with an enhancement possible, the sentencing guidelines called for 46 to 57 months in prison, with up to eight years possible. Without an enhancement, the guidelines call for 12 to 16 months.
"It raised the stakes substantially," Shemaria said. "When he decided the enhancement could be applied, we decided to cut our losses."
Hamas is a Palestinian militant group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since overrunning the rival Fatah government in 2007. Hamas has taken responsibility for hundreds of suicide bombings targeting Israeli citizens.
The U.S. designated Hamas a terrorist organization in 1995 and Holy Land in 2001.
The sentencing itself almost was called off after Abdallah addressed the court and denied many of the facts in the indictment.
"I never facilitated, I never recruited, I never collected money," Abdallah told Wake. "Because I have a family, because I owe over $200,000, because I am underwater, I will stand by this agreement."
Wake said Abdallah's statement cast doubt on the guilty plea, and called on government prosecutors to provide exact examples of lies and have Abdallah acknowledge them. In the end, Shemaria read a list of facts, Abdallah acknowledged them, and Wake imposed the 18-month sentence.