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Day 17: Daniel Maldonado, First half of Direct-Examination


Trial Day 17 (11/17/2011) Summary Dashboard

Here is a summary of today’s events; the full account will be posted shortly, but we wanted to update you right away.  Please take a moment and complete the form at the bottom so we can continue improving the quality of service.

Witnesses                 Direct-Ex                Cross-Ex

Bradley Davis           (EW)               J. Auerhahn                                         J. Bassil

Colleen Downey      (EW)                A. Chakravarty                                    J. Bassil

Matthew Taylor       (EW)                A. Chakravarty                                    J. Bassil

Daniel Maldonado   (CW)                 J. Grohering                                          N/A

*EW = “Expert Witness”; CW = “Cooperating Witness.”

Abbreviations

Defense Counsel:

“JC” = Jay W. Carney Jr.; “JB” = Janice Bassil

Assistant U.S. Attorneys:

“JA” = Jeffrey Auerhahn; “AC” = Aloke Chakravarty

Co-Defendant:

“AAS” = Ahmad Abousamra;  “KAZ” = Karim Abu Zahra

Witness Briefs

Bradley Davis (“BD”)

FBI special agent BD began investigating the case and interviewing the defendants in late 2006.  Recruited Karim Abu Zahra (“KAZ”) as an informant, then directed and coordinated his activities in recording conversations with Dr. Mehanna.  Approached Dr. Mehanna at his workplace and interviewed him on Dec. 12, 2006, leading to statements used to implicate Dr. Mehanna in lying to a federal agent.  Interviewed Ahmed Abousamra (“AAS”) and Jason Pippin (“JP”) as well.

Colleen Downey (“CD”)

CD is a Customs and Border Patrol Officer, member of anti-terrorism and contraband team.  Managed outbound examination of AAS’ belongings, electronics and communications devices in 2006 when he was leaving for a 1month trip to Syria.  Cloned all of his electronic and non-electronic records, contacts and photographs.  Allowed him to depart; AAS has since remained in Syria.

Matthew Taylor (“MT”)

MT is a 21 year veteran special agent with the FBI stationed in Houston, Texas.  Role specialized since 1991 as “source developer,” (e.g., investigates leads and employs diverse methods to recruit and direct informants as needed to build a case or advance an investigation).  Interviewed Dr. Mehanna for information on Daniel Maldonado (“DM”), despite already knowing the answers to the questions asked about a particular phone conversation between Dr. Mehanna and DM (knew the answers because the conversation had been covertly wiretapped, via FISA warrant).  Coordinated the developments that led to the false testimony charge made in 2008.

Daniel Maldonado (“DM”)

DM is Dr. Mehanna’s best friend and a Puerto Rican American convert to Islam who became Muslim around 1999.  He resided in Methuen with his wife and two children before he moved his family to Egypt in early 2006.  The move was a step taken to live in a Muslim country where he could learn Arabic, a requirement for reading the Muslim holy book (the Qur’an).  Dr. Mehanna visited him in Egypt while on a family vacation there.  In late 2006, received a phone call from DM, which was tapped by the FBI.  DM said he moved to Somalia.  By January 2007, Somalia was invaded by Ethiopia and in the ensuing chaos and period of armed conflict, DM was separated from his wife and they from their two young children.  Crossed over to Kenya and was then picked up by local authorities and transferred to the FBI, who extradited him to Texas to stand trial for evidently training for terrorism, providing material support and allegedly intending to use a weapon of mass destruction in furtherance of terrorism in Somalia.

Case never went to trial; shortly after arrest, DM received word his wife had died of illness.  They had been deeply in love and this loss, coupled with having no knowledge of whether his children were safe or alive, caused severe depression and mental compromise in him, during the same period he signed the agreement with the government to plead guilty. Despite no evidence of having actually engaged in combat, DM has been incarcerated for 5 years since 2007 in the Extreme Isolation Unit at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado; his sentence is 10 years.  The government’s plea agreement with him, read in court today, repeatedly emphasizes that it is only valid as long as he testifies according to the prosecution’s desires, and that any deviation would be sufficient to render the plea null and void—meaning that if he does not testify against Dr. Mehanna, his best friend, as the prosecution directs him to, his 10 year sentence will become a life sentence without parole and no hope of seeing his children ever again.

Synopsis:

  • Testimony by BD and MT intended by prosecution to support the false testimony charge dating back to the 2006 conversation about Maldonado’s whereabouts.
  • FBI began openly approaching Dr. Mehanna, KAZ, AAS, DM and JP in 2006; by this time, were already monitoring and recording Dr. Mehanna’s phone, cell and e-mails.
  • JB’s cross-examination of BD and MT emphasizes  that they already knew the answers to the questions they asked Dr. Mehanna during Dec 2006 interview.
  • Testimony by BD and MT sought to emphasize Dr. Mehanna’s obstruction of justice through alleged false statement; this testimony contradicted by JB’s revelation that they already knew the answers.  BD and MT both evaded addressing this issue through a series of IDRs (“I don’t recall” responses).
  • Cross-examination by JB reveals that neither BD nor MT created, followed or utilized any leads or sources to validate information from interviews with Dr. Mehanna (e.g., neither FBI agent researched whether Yemen had Arabic schools or training camps); these significant considerations evidently had no bearing on the narrative they were promoting.
  • KAZ interviewed by BD in August 2006, became an informant within 2 months and immediately began secretly recording conversations with Dr. Mehanna.
  • AAS left for Yemen in 2006 for a planned 30 day vacation; remains at large and designated as a fugitive by BD and MT.
  • CD was not at all prepared to testify, as seen by obvious hesitation and stuttering responses, very poor memory of her outbound exam of AAS’ belongings despite repeated refreshers by JB, and even an embarrassing and inexplicable failure to identify AAS in a photograph of him with his bride.
  • MT exhibited complete ignorance of Somali political developments, including relevant facts: 1) the organization DM is alleged to have trained with is the “Islamic Courts” Somali Islamist insurgency; 2) the Islamic Courts today are both the legitimate and internationally recognized leaders of Somalia, and are also allies of the United States.
  • JG opened direct examination of DM by having him read signed plea agreement aloud, including terms and conditions of the agreement, consideration made to DM and consequences of violating the terms.
  • Terms of plea:  Government drops the charge of conspiracy to use a Weapon of Mass Destruction in a foreign country in exchange for “Full Cooperation,” which includes providing any information he has relating to material support for terrorism.
  • DM’s voice while reading plea agreement conveyed bitterness towards his government handlers; conveyed a sense that for him the plea felt as a shackle more than as a protection or leniency deal.
  • When asked what he understood of the plea agreement, DM clearly stated that to him it meant that unless he testifies against his “best friend” Dr. Mehanna, his sentence would extend to a life sentence without parole and he would never see his children again; he implied this was why he is testifying.
  • DM answered most questions in as few words as possible; only grudgingly elaborated and only after repeated goading by JG.
  • Dr. Mehanna never had a conversation with DM about why he went to Yemen; DM only had such a conversation with AAS.
  • Dr. Mehanna discouraged DM from joining a training camp; said: “Don’t do this, think about your family.”
  • KAZ approached DM requesting his help in acquiring automatic weapons or handguns; when DM declined to help, KAZ stuttered that it was just idle curiosity.

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