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Published: Wednesday, 7/16/2008

Feds seek to drop some charges for 2 guilty in Toledo terror trial

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After obtaining convictions on terrorism-related crimes against three local men of Middle Eastern descent, federal government prosecutors have decided not to pursue additional charges against two of the defendants.

According to a motion filed just after 4 p.m. yesterday in U.S. District Court in Toledo, the government requested dismissal of two counts of making threats against President Bush against Mohammad Amawi and one count of making false statements against Marwan El-Hindi.

Judge James Carr had not yet ruled on the motion as of late yesterday.

Amawi, 28; El-Hindi, 43, and Wassim Mazloum, 27, were convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to kill and maim persons outside the United States and conspiring to provide material support for terrorism.

Jurors also found Amawi and El-Hindi guilty of disseminating information regarding explosives after a more than two-month trial.

All three face possible life terms in prison.

In the two-page motion, prosecutors noted that the three charges against the defendants already had been severed at the request of the defense.

The motion also said that the United States "intends to seek sentences of life imprisonment for each of the defendants, pursuant to the federal sentencing advisory guidelines."

"Prospective conviction on these severed charges would add little to the substantial sentencing implications of the defendants' counts of conviction from the now-completed trial," the motion said.

"Therefore, to proceed with two additional jury trials to resolve these outstanding charges would not be a prudent, economic use of judicial resources, nor would such trials be necessary to further the interests of justice."

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice emphasized that the defendants face possible life terms in prison, adding that the motion outlined the government's reasons for the request.

Trial dates for both defendants had been set in federal court - Aug. 26 for El-Hindi and Sept. 30 for Amawi.

Yesterday, Dennis Terez, federal defender of the Northern District of Ohio, whose office handled Amawi's defense, said the motion was in line with a request made earlier by attorneys to dismiss the two additional charges against Amawi.

Although acknowledging the government did not concede the defense's argument for dismissal, he said the resulting decision was prudent. "Certainly this is an appropriate move given the circumstances of both what's preceded today and what's to come," he said, referring to both the trial and the upcoming sentencings.

"With the convictions that they have already obtained, no one disputes that the defendants here are subject to life in prison," he continued. "That's what the statute says. Again, it's not required, it's the high end of what can be imposed, but it's up to Judge Carr to determine what sentence he gives."

Mr. Terez added that the additional charges against the men "involved conduct unrelated to the main charges" and so severing them "made a lot of sense."

Attorney Steve Hartman, who represents El-Hindi, said the decision to dismiss the case was "not unexpected."

"The charges are insignificant by comparison to the convictions they already have obtained and the government realized that," he said, adding that a life sentence is on the table. "These charges wouldn't have changed sentencing parameters in the case, so why even bother?"

He added that his client has additional charges pending against him in a separate case.

El-Hindi and co-defendant Ashraf Zaim are charged with defrauding the government based on accusations that they received a $40,000 grant from the United States to put on tax clinics for low-income residents but failed to use the money appropriately. No trial date has been set.

A jury of six men and six women deliberated over 2 1/2 days before returning guilty verdicts last month against the three men in the terror case. Sentencing dates have not yet been set.

The bulk of the government's case rested on recordings made by a cooperating witness who testified in court over 12 days how he weaved his way into the Toledo Muslim community.

Darren Griffin testified about more than two years of interactions with the defendants and offered up more than 300 hours of recorded conversations as evidence.

Trial dates have been set for two additional defendants charged with terrorism-related crimes in the case.

Zubair Ahmed and Khaleel Ahmed, both of the Chicago area, are slated to go to trial Feb. 9, 2009, in U.S. District Court in Toledo. The cousins are charged with one count each of conspiring to kill, maim, or injure U.S. soldiers overseas.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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