“Since the end of my trial, I’ve been asked repeatedly about particular aspects of my case. Rather than respond to each individual inquirer, I figured it to be more practical to address those points publicly so that the general public may also be aware of some of the background information often buried under headlines:
Yes, I was charged by the government after refusing to become an FBI informant.
In April of 2008, as I was nearing my college graduation date, I was in the process of obtaining a position as a pharmacist at a large hospital in Saudi Arabia. Days after I sent an email to the employer accepting the job offer, the FBI (who were monitoring my communications) were waiting for me outside my workplace in Natick, MA and revealed that they were aware that I was moving to the middle East, but that they wanted to file terrorism charges against me, and that ‘we could either handle this the easy way or the hard way.’ I was told to get a lawyer, and he would explain what the ‘easy way’ was.
I hired a lawyer that week, and he called the U.S. Attorney’s office as I sat next to him. Jeffrey Auerhahn explained to him that the government wanted me to work as an informant, and that if I did not, I would be arrested and charged with terrorism. Since I wouldn’t agree to do this, my lawyer at the time (Norman Zalkind) told Auerhahn that if they wanted to arrest me, I was more than willing to turn myself in at a time and place of the government’s choosing. We even documented this offer of surrender in a letter sent to the government (this letter can be read online as an attached exhibit to my Feb. 2011 bail motion). The government responded that they were not interested in my surrender, and were planning to arrest me at my upcoming college graduation ceremony. This didn’t happen, and I in fact heard nothing from the government for the following seven months.
Finally, in November of 2008, after seven months of silence, I decided to begin working at the hospital that had hired me in the capitol of Saudi Arabia. I had to move on with my life at some point. So my parents and I booked plane tickets, went to the airport, passed a search, and once we were given our boarding passes, I was arrested by the FBI inside the plane’s terminal.
I was charged not with terrorism, but with giving a false statement to an FBI agent years earlier. I was taken to jail, where I spent 44 days before being released on $1.2 million bail, in December of 2008. I was out on bail for approximately nine months when, in September of 2009, I was approached by a man who was sent by the prosecutors to tell me that I had one final chance: if I became an informant, they would drop the false statement charge, and i would eventually be let go to move on with my career plans. Again, I refused. One month later, on October 21st, 2009, I was arrested a second time, this time with all of the terrorism charges that I was threatened with back in April 2008, and convicted on in 2011. And here I am today, having chosen ‘the hard way.’
(The judge would not allow my lawyers to mention any of this background information to the jury at trial.)
Yes, I was offered numerous plea deals by the government. The most recent on offered before trial was that they would drop all of the terrorism charges, except that I would plead guilty to translating a book (’39 Ways’), and we would jointly seek a sentence of five to ten years, as opposed to the life sentence I currently face. These deals were offered by the government of their own accord to avoid a trial, and were never sought by me. I refused each deal and insisted on going to trial.
It should be noted that during these discussions between my lawyers and the prosecutors, the prosecutors admitted that they do not think I am a ‘terrorist.’
All of this contrasts with Carmen Ortiz’s statement to the press outside the courthouse following my conviction that my arrest was necessary to ‘catch terrorists,’ as well as the initial government claims that I was a maniac bent on shooting up a shopping mall.”