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Day 18: Direct Examination of Daniel Maldonado


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

 

Trial Day            Witnesses                                    Direct-Ex                        Cross-Ex

Day 17                        Daniel Maldonado (CW)            J. Groharing

Day 18                        Daniel Maldonado                        J. Groharing                        J. Bassel

Day 19                        Daniel Maldonado                        J. Groharing                        J. Bassel

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

 

Defense Counsel:

“JB” = Janice Bassil

 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys:

Jeffrey Groharing (“JG”)

Major Jeffrey Groharing of the United States Marine Corp. is a marine and also one of the officers who was appointed to prosecute captives held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  His record is distinguished negatively by his role in the prosecution of Omar Khadr.  In Khadr’s trial, which was under a military commission presided over by Colonel Peter Brownback to determine whether Khadr was an “illegal enemy combatant,” Brownback was forced to continue the trial after the defense revealed that Maj. Groharing had waited until two days before the trial to reveal two exculpatory witnesses to them.   According to attorney Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch:

“It is totally outrageous that the prosecution would try to push ahead with a hearing on whether or not Khadr was an unlawful enemy combatant, while all the time withholding from the defense potentially exculpatory information.  Anyone who has ever gone to law school knows the fundamental legal and ethical rule:  The prosecution cannot withhold exculpatory information from the defense.”

 

Additional:

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

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.

 

Day 17:

Jeffrey Groharing initiated the direct examination on Thursday, 11/17/2011 (DAY 17) of Daniel Maldonado.  Maldonado has been held at at federal institution where to date he has presently served 5 years of a 10 year sentence for receiving military training form a foreign terrorist organization in Somalia in 2007.

The prosecution initiated direct examination by requiring Maldonado to read the terms of his plea agreement with the government.  Conditions of the plea agreement:

  • Would not be prosecuted on charge of conspiracy to use weapon of mass destruction in a foreign country.
  • In return, agreed to fully cooperate (e.g, “provide all information related to material support”
  • “…agrees to voluntarily attend any interviews and conferences…”
  • For all intents and purposes, Maldonado is now forced to testify whenever they want him to.
  • “The defendant understands and agrees that if he violates plea agreement as determined by the federal prosecution, that the U.S. Attorney’s Office or any district in the United States will be free to charge the defendant with any charges which were not brought into contemplation as a result of this plea agreement.”
——-
Friday, 11/18/2011  (Day 18)
D/Ex resumes w/ JG @ DM
DM has been a grudging cooperating witness; he acts lethargically both, moving slowly if at all, speaking slurred at times as if sedated, and making little to no effort to keep his mouth near the mike.  The result was a sort of lazy, meandering D/Ex, where JG frequently had to prompt DM multiple times in order to extract testimony that could have been answered in a single prompt.
Mehanna and Maldonado intermittently exchanged glances with one another over the course of the hearing.  When asked, DM identified Mehanna as his “best friend” on at least two occasions.

Never confronted Defendant about the Yemen Trip

After meeting with KAZ, DM began to avoid him and no longer stayed in touch.  Their interactions when running into one another in the mosque during Friday prayer had become awkward, Maldonado noted, and he felt suspicious that KAZ might have been cooperating or communicating with law enforcement.
DM:  “He started acting sketchy in the mosque.”
JG asked DM how he felt about learning that KAZ was traveling with Tarek, DM confirmed that he was indeed surprised, disappointed and even a bit hurt, at having been left out of the loop.
DM:  “I thought there was a sense of trust and so I didn’t know why it would be kept secret.”
JG:  “Did you confront the defendant about at any point?”
DM:  “I don’t recall.”

JG:  “Would you say you felt some resent?”

DM:  “I wouldn’t say that, it was more like I was a little disappointed.  But I couldn’t have gone anyway, because of my family.”
At the time, DM was actively searching for employment.
DM:  “I had been looking for work.  My online business didn’t make enough to make ends meet.  Sas Jamal got me a job with Islamic Network…”

Moving to Egypt for Work

He decided to move to Texas following a job lead from a friend he had made via online forums.  Sas Jamal, an acquaintance of his, had offered him a job in Houston, working as a moderator on his website, “Islamic Network,” where DM spent his days reviewing the forum content for inappropriate material, such as anti-Islamic rhetoric, pornography, and similar content for removal.
DM:  “I worked for Islamic Network for about a year, a year and two months.”
During this segment of the D/Ex, DM expressed concern over being able to provide effectively for his family, and this set the stage for discussing his decision to take his family and move to Egypt.
DM:  “You can live extremely cheap in Egypt with American money, he told me.  He said he’d pay for me to go live in Egypt because I could still work remotely from there, since the work was all online.”
He made plans and in November 2005, DM moved to Alexandira, Egypt with his wife, Tameika, his daughter Rahma, and his son Muhammad.  Prompted by JG, DM indicated that he remained in contact with Mehanna via email and MSN.

Amn el Dawla asks about Defendant

Evidently, while in Egypt DM found himself summoned to the offices of Amn el Dawla, alternately referred to as the Egyptian State Security Forces.  This is the same institution whose blatant human rights abuses played a direct role in precipitating the Feb 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
(At this point, JG requests that an article of evidence be displayed on the court monitors.)
April 12, 2006 MSN  Chat Log (cl):
DM (cl):  “I went to THAT PLACE.” (e.g., the office of Amn el Dawla)
JG:  “What did they ask you about?”
DM:  “They called and asked me to come answer some questions about Tarek.”
DM (cl):  “They had a lot of information about you for some strange reason.”
TM (cl):  “Nice to know I’m so loved.”
DM (cl):  “They asked about [many things relating to his relationship with Tarek].”
TM (cl):  “Did they mention why I was of interest?”
DM (cl):  “It had to do with Abu Dujanah, Tarek al-Dour.”
TM (cl):  “Don’t worry, just tell them the truth.”
DM (cl):  “I don’t even want to know.”
TM (cl):  “Honestly, by Allah, there is nothing to worry about.”
DM (cl):  “Who you know is none of my bizness.”
TM (cl):  “There is nothing of any danger.”
DM (cl):  “As much as I want to see you, you may want to rethink coming this summer.”
DM (cl):  “They were VERY interested in you.”
TM (cl):  “I swear there is nothing but I know why they might be asking.  Give them my phone # if they call again, we’ll have them over for tea.”
DM (cl):  “Whattt, are you for real?”
TM (cl):  “Well yeah, I will explain everything to them.”
DM (cl):  “I know you are doing nothing wrong.”
TM (cl):  “Wallahi, there is nothing.”
—–End Chat Log—–
Another chat was briefly reviewed, only a handful of lines in length, where Mehanna followed-up with DM, asking him if he had received anymore undue attention from the mukhabarat (security forces), and DM denied that he had.

Yousef Khattab, Bob and NYC

Next, JG asked DM about Yousef Khattab, and confirmed that Khattab was a convert to Islam who had lived in Jerusalem, and moved to New York City.  Khattab was openly pro-jihad and an outspoken supporter of the use of suicide bombings.
JG introduced another chat log, dated May 23, 2006, where DM and Mehanna discussed whether or not to meet Khattab in NY as planned:
May 23, 2006  MSN  Chat Log (cl):
DM:  “You should meet up with [Yousef Khattab].”
TM:  “Well, maybe not, considering…Bob…..”
—–End Chat Log—–
The two decided it would be better not to follow through on the date, due to concerns over “Bob,” a nickname they used in referring to the FBI.

Omar Hamami, Salafis and Somalia

JG asked DM about Omar Hamami, and DM described him as a half white, half Syrian who grew up in Alabama and was then living in Egypt until he and DM left for Somalia together.

DM:  “We planned together to go to Somalia if the ICU (“Islamic Courts Union”) took Mogadishu in 2006.

JG asked DM if he was familiar with an article titled “For the Salafis Who Sit,” and whether Mehanna had sent it to him.

DM:  “Yes, I can’t recall if he sent it to me though.”

JG:  “What was this article about?”

DM:  “It discussed the differences between the different Salafi groups.”

JG asked him to define “Salafi,” and DM described them for the court.

DM:  “Mostly out of Saudi Arabia.  They are very harsh against those who practice jihad.”

JG:  “Can you explain the term madkhali?”

DM:  “It refers to Salafis who were harsh with people over the most little details.”

DM:  “Yes, we kind of used it as a derogatory term.  We used it to refer to those Salafis like the Saudis who were harsh against jihad.  Tarek thought they were too nitpicky over the little details while being too lax when taking action.  They are the first to not say anything to support those who are invaded; he referred to them as “worthless.”

Mehanna had planned to travel to Egypt during the summer of 2006.  In Somalia at that time, the ICU was making great strides to taking Mogadishu, and the conflict was considered a jihad against the Transitional Government (“TGS”).

DM:  “Insha’Allah Somalia gets Hukh Shar’i.”

DM on Zarqawi’s Death and Goal of Traveling to Somalia

DM indicated under JG’s prompting that he had always intended to go to Somalia if the ICU took Mogadishu because he considered the formation of an Islamic state in Somalia to be a form of jihad and he wanted to support it.  At that point, however, there were no “terrorist groups” that he know of.  mentioned Zarqawi in a chat log with Mehanna, where Mehanna was asking about the Egyptian population’s response to his death.

Defendant called him a “great fighter in Iraq.”

TM:  “What do the Egyptians think?” (referring here to Egyptian population in general)

DM:  “They all seem to be in mourning…just sad, sad sad.”

TM:  “Really?  Wow…so they respected him.”

DM:  “Yeah akhi, they love him here.”

DM:  Zarqawi did not die in the initial bombing strike.  He was injured, then taken on a stretcher which he rose from to start fighting again before he was finally killed.

TM:  “Yeah, he probably gave them the lawful version of “F” You then gave his Shahada.”

The two discussed Tarek’s planned trip to Egypt in the Summer of 2006, and during this conversation Tarek indicated that he did not want to disclose when he would be arriving in order to avoid attention:

DM:  “What time are you arriving?”

TM:  “Allah knows best.”

DM:  “Oh…thanks.”

TM:  “I don’t want…BOB…to know.”

DM:  “I mean it.  I don’t want a red carpet greeting.”

They met again in August 2006 for two weeks.  Every other day was spent together in Egypt, with DM, Mehanna and Omar Hemami meeting to discuss topics including Islamic jurisprudence, Somalia, family, Qur’an and Egypt generally.  Somalia was increasingly turning into an Islamic state, and DM expressed a strong desire to leave for there.

JG:  “What about Somalia?”

DM:  “That it’s becoming an Islamic state.”

JG:  “And about jihad?”

DM:  “Yes.”

JG:  “What did the defendant say about that?”

DM:  “He told me not to do it.  He said “Think about your wife and your children.”

Emails Exchanged Before DM to Somalia

An email sent between them was presented then, dated November 5th, 2006:

In the email, DM told Mehanna that somebody in New Jersey had contated him and told him that the defendant’s name was being brought up, with regards to certain things.  In the email, he told the defendant that he was putting others in danger and that he needed to clean out his closet and stop sending such emails.

JG:  “Were you concerned about your name coming up?” [Yes]

Another email was shown [Mehanna’s response to DM]

“Akhi, what the heck are you talking about?  College discussions?  Closet?  Emails?  You’re really not making sense, dude.  You know me, and I’m not that kind of person.  You see my posts on Islamic Network and you know what I’m about man.  I’m sorry that your families feel this way, but I haven’t done anything akhi.”

DM described Islamic Network as being more moderate than Tibyan Publications, saying that Tibyan was “a website dedicated to jihad, and more hot with rhetoric.”

Mr. Abdullah Ali had evidently been standing right behind him, dictating the entire email.  (Mr. Ali was introduced to DM by Mehanna.  He was an apolitical but very religious man who was financially poor but responsible for an orphanage.).  Next, another email was shown, this one from Mehanna to AAS: “I got this very strange email from Dan today…”

DM Leaves to Somalia

JG:  “So where did you go from there?  To Somalia, right?”

DM indicated that he had, and that it was for jihad.  JG asked if he had discussed this with Mehanna and Hemami at all, to which DM responded “Yes, in a general sense.”  Only he and Hemami traveled to Somalia.

DM:  “We left to Somalia on November 24th, 2006, but we left separately.  When we got there, to the airport which was really little more tan a garage with tables, we had a problem with some officials, then somebody pulled up in an SUV, which appeared to be on my side.”  They took DM and his family to a place known as “The Hotel” and provided him with an AK-47, a magazine vest and after 2 weeks initiated one month of physical training, but got sick with malaria halfway through and could not participate in most of it.

JG:  “This type of training was what the defendant wanted to receive?” [“Yes.”]

JG:  “Why?”  [“It was beneficial because if you want to fight you have to have training.”]

JG:  “Where did you want to apply that training?”  [“Iraq.”]

Phone Calls From Somalia; Mehanna evaded

There were a total of 3 phonecalls exchanged between DM and Mehanna after DM went to Somalia.

First Phonecall from DM to Mehanna on December 12, 2006 [11:31pm]

JG:  “Why did you call him?  [“In the hopes that he might join.”]

JG:  “Based on your conversations, did you believe he would?”  [“I had hopes.”]

Second Phonecall

During the phone conversation with Mehanna, DM said “I don’t care who’s listening because there’s nothing illegal about it.”  DM indicated that the bizarre email from before was not his idea, but that Abdullah Ali had “forced” him to write it to him “for his own good.”

TM:  “I just wanna be somewhere I can pray 5 times a day.”

DM:  “You can’t even smoke cigarettes here, it’s illegal.”

TM:  “What about marriage and stuff?”

DM:  “It’s so easy here!  I’m on a beach, the water is perfect.”

TM:  Don’t talk as if it’s somethign sahdy.”

DM:  “There is nothing shady…”nothing illegal”…”People have the wrong idea of people coming here”

TM:  “Are there bookstores there with books you can buy?”  (LOL)

DM:  “Of course, but akhi, make the intention now!”

At this point, JG stopped him in the questioning to ask him deeper questions.

JG:  “Why did you tell him to make the intention now?”

DM:  “Because if something happens to you on the way, if you made the intention then you still reap the reward even if something happens that keeps you from completing the trip.”

JG:  “And you meant the intention for what?”

DM:  “To make hijrah…perform jihad.”

JG:  “What’s the significance of being a martyr?”

DM:  “You are granted the most…lofty…place in Paradise.  Martyrdom is the best way for a Muslim to die.

(Back to the phone conversation)

TM:  “The main obstacle over here is mommy and daddy.”

DM:  “Just make prayer and Allah will take care of any of their hardships.”

TM:  “You went with your family?  [“Yeah man, with my entire family.”]

DM:  “Dude I can get you married here and have a house and money for you.”

JG asked DM why Tarek Mehanna was the first one on his list to call, and DM indicated this was because Mehanna was and is his best friend, and that he thought he was most likely to come.

DM related the series of events that surrounded the December 19th, 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, of how he crossed over the Kenyan border and was captured and charged with receiving military training from the DFTO, and of being charged with planning to use weapons of mass destruction.

JG concluded by reasserting over DM that the plea requires him to be honest, that he must testify in all cases, otherwise he faces life without parole.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Updates: The Trial of Tarek Mehanna - Page 25 - November 22, 2011

    […] Updates: The Trial of Tarek Mehanna Day 18: Direct Examination of Daniel MaldonadoTrial Day 17 (11/17/2011) Summary Dashboard Trial Day Witnesses Direct-Ex Cross-Ex Day 17 Daniel […]

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