Did judge put words in Al-Arian's mouth? (5/4)
Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys recall the former USF professor calling the U.S. "the great Satan."
By MEG LAUGHLIN
Published May 4, 2006
TAMPA - When U.S. District Judge James Moody delivered a stinging rebuke of Sami Al-Arian Monday, he began by accusing him of publicly praising the United States while privately calling it "the great Satan."
But neither federal prosecutors nor defense attorneys recall Al-Arian using the expression.
Al-Arian was in court for sentencing. He had just read a prepared statement in which he lauded the U.S. justice system, and said he was glad his children had been born "in a society that provided them with freedom and equal opportunities."
Replied Moody, "I find it interesting that here in public in front of everyone you praised this country, the same country that you referred to in private as "the great Satan."
Prosecutors and defense lawyers wouldn't rule out the possibility that Al-Arian used the expression, saying they may have missed it in the reams of wiretap transcripts and records - in and out of evidence - that they scrutinized.
But the closest attorneys from both sides could come to making a link between Al-Arian and the expression "the great Satan America" was in Exhibit 400, called "The Internal By-laws of Islamic Jihad in Palestine (PIJ)."
"The prosecutors say it was in the PIJ Manifesto - Exhibit 400 - that Al-Arian had in his possession," said Steve Cole, a spokesman for the federal prosecutors.
Linda Moreno, Al-Arian's attorney, agreed: "It was in that document, but the words were not Dr. Al-Arian's."
The document was found among Al-Arian's possessions in a 1995 FBI search. From the 37-page exhibit: "The great Satan America ... makes the wrong right and the right wrong."
Before Moody allowed prosecutors to show the jury the PIJ document during Al-Arian's terrorism-related trial, the judge cautioned: "It could be for scholarly pursuit. Mere possession by itself does not prove membership in anything."
The judge would not talk to the St. Petersburg Times about the quote.
Both defense and prosecution lawyers, however, do recall an example of Al-Arian using strong words against America, which the judge excluded from the trial.
In a 1991 video, in reaction to the Gulf War, he said: "Let us damn America. ... Let us damn them and their allies unto death."
Years later, asked about saying "damn America," Al-Arian told the St. Petersburg Times, "I was very surprised to hear myself say that, and I've never said anything like that again."
In December, a jury acquitted the former University of South Florida professor of eight terrorism-related counts and hung on nine after a six-month trial. Three months later, Al-Arian pleaded guilty to one count of aiding PIJ associates in nonviolent ways. The PIJ has claimed responsibility for hundreds of deaths in Israel and the occupied territories.
After Moody lambasted Al-Arian at his sentencing Monday for being a "master manipulator," the judge gave him the maximum sentence allowed by the guidelines - 57 months.
With time served, Al-Arian should get out of prison in a year and a half.