Federal prosecutors in a naturalization fraud case are asking the judge to take an extraordinary step and impanel an anonymous jury and implement a partial sequestration. Rasmea Odeh, a 67-year-old community activist who is assistant director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), was arrested last year, charged with lying on a naturalization application she filed more than 10 years ago. She faces up to 10 years in jail, deportation, and losing her citizenship.
Hatem Abudayyeh, AAAN’s executive director, organized call-in days and e-mail campaigns aimed at Attorney General Eric Holder and Congress, asking that the charges against Odeh be dropped. He called on the community to show support for her at the courthouse. He did not keep silent about his opinion that the charges were politically motivated.
The Defending Dissent Foundation participated in the campaign, asking our supporters to send e-mails and make phone calls. But now, in an unusual motion, prosecutors are asking the judge to take extraordinary measures “to ensure an untainted jury” by keeping names of jury members secret, and spiriting them into the courthouse through the garage. The motion refers to the people gathered outside the courthouse as a “protesting mob” and calls Abudayyeh’s advocacy “almost certainly criminal.” Judge for yourself. Here is the picture the prosecutors appended to their motion to illustrate the “protesting mob”: And I’m not the only one who’s a little taken aback. Writing about the prosecutor’s motion in Politico, Josh Gerstein points out:
It is highly unusual for prosecutors to name an individual in a court filing and suggest his or her involvement in a crime in the absence of formal charges against the person. The motion is also unusual for quoting an alleged statement by Abudayyeh, asserting that he said that he planned to be “contentious” in a conversation with deputy U.S. marshals, without submitting any proof of the remark.
By now though, Aubdayyeh is probably used to the Department of Justice’s special brand of character assassination by innuendo (see below). The prosecutors, in an attempt to portray their request as quite sensible, mention that anonymous juries have been empanelled before:
Such a procedure has been used in a number of cases in this Court, including most recently United States v. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 2:10-cr-20005.
Abdulmutallab was the “underwear bomber” who tried to blow up an airliner in 2009. Odeh is charged with lying on her application for citizenship. But the reference to Abdulmutallab underscores how having their identities hidden might lead jury members to assume the worst about the defendant and fear for their own safety, regardless of whether the prosecution intends it to have that effect. The proposal “is only intended to play the ‘terrorism’ card and is unacceptable,” Odeh’s lawyers have objected. Gerstein also notes: The motion, which makes clear that law enforcement has been keeping a very close eye on Odeh’s supporters, also complains about them attempting to “flood Department of Justice telephone lines in an attempt to influence” the court proceedings. (emphasis added) Law enforcement has been keeping a close eye on pro-Palestine activists in Chicago and the Midwest at least since 2008, when the FBI infiltrated antiwar and Palestine-solidarity groups there. After spying on them for almost two years, the FBI raided the homes and offices of 9 of these activists, and summoned 23 of them to appear before a grand jury. Will you be surprised to learn that Abudayyeh’s home was one of those raided, and that he was ordered to appear before the grand jury? Odeh came to the United States in 1995 and became a citizen in 2004. She is charged with applying for citizenship without mentioning that she had served time in an Israeli prison; she had been released in an exchange between the Israeli government and Palestinian rebels. Her lawyers have asked the judge to dismiss the charges on the grounds that her indictment “is the product of an illegal investigation into the First Amendment activities of the AAAN, and should be quashed as politically motivated and based on the selective use of the criminal law to target protected political work.”