“Attorneys make opening statements in Somali piracy, murder trial in federal court in Virginia”

June 7, 2013

The Washington Post on June 6, 2013 released the following:

By Associated Press

“NORFOLK, Va. — Defense attorneys for three Somalis charged with murdering four American yachters in a pirate hijacking said Thursday there’s no physical evidence proving their clients fired the shots that killed the Americans during a moment of chaos as U.S. Navy warships and special forces circled nearby off the coast of Africa.

The attorneys also suggested during opening statements in federal court that the other 11 men who have already pleaded guilty to piracy in the case have a vested interest in testifying against their clients, noting that they agreed to testify in exchange for the possibility of a reduced sentence. The 11 are currently serving mandatory life sentences.

The yacht’s owners, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., and their friends, Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were shot to death in February 2011 after they were taken hostage at sea several hundred miles south of Oman. They were the first Americans to be killed during a wave of pirate attacks that have plagued the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean in recent years, despite an international flotilla of warships that regularly patrol the area.

The men who have pleaded guilty in the case have said they intended to take the Americans back to Somalia and hold them for ransom. Their plan fell apart after U.S. Navy warships began shadowing the Quest.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Samuels said that after the Navy established contact with the Quest, the 19 men who boarded the American yacht split into two factions. One group wanted to accept the Navy’s offer to release the Americans and be allowed to return to Somalia with the Quest. The other faction repeatedly threatened to kill the Americans if they weren’t allowed to proceed to Somalia with them.

Samuels said the three men charged in the murders — Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar — fell into the more aggressive camp.

What triggered the killings is unclear, but prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on the general timeline. They said one of the men aboard the pirated yacht fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the USS Sterett, a guided-missile destroyer that had been maneuvering between the yacht and the Somali coast. Meanwhile, small boats of Navy SEALs were in the water and a U.S. Navy helicopter with a sniper on board was also hovering overhead.

Almost immediately after the RPG was fired, shots rang out aboard the yacht. Each of the Americans was shot numerous times. Scott Adam survived the initial gunfire only to be approached by pirates a second time minutes later and shot again. Two pirates were also killed in a hail of gunfire at the time.

However, defense attorney Larry Dash said it was U.S. Navy snipers that fired the first shots. That contradicts prosecutors’ account. Samuels said the Sterett’s commanding officer had previously given an order not to return fire if fired upon.

Samuels said the Navy fired no shots until a team of SEALs boarded the yacht 10 minutes later, shooting one pirate dead. Another pirate who pretended to be injured fought with a SEAL and was stabbed to death. The Americans were flown aboard the USS Enterprise to be treated for their wounds, but medical personnel were unable to save them.

Prosecutors said they will show video taken by the Navy in the moments before and after the shootings took place. Some of the video shows who was standing where as the shots rang out.

Numerous Navy personnel are expected to testify, along with as dozens of FBI and NCIS agents, including some who specialize in ballistic and forensic evidence. The trial is expected to last six weeks.

Despite all the witnesses, DNA samples and ballistic experts, Dash said there is no physical evidence proving his client fired the fatal shot. Samuels noted that some DNA evidence wasn’t available because of exposure to weather during the two days that the Quest was towed to Djibouti following the shootings.

That distinction could help determine whether the men face the death penalty. In all, In all, 22 of the 26 counts against the defendants are death-eligible offenses. Jury selection took more than two days, in part, because of questions about jurors’ views of the death penalty. Piracy carries a mandatory life sentence.

Executions under federal law are rare. Only three out of more than 1,300 executions in the U.S. since 1976 have been carried out by the federal government, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which tracks death penalty statistics and is opposed to the death penalty

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made the decision to seek the death penalty. Ultimately, the U.S. is trying to send a message to would-be pirates: Stay away from U.S.-flagged vessels”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Feds seek death penalty in Somali yacht hijacking

May 1, 2012

The Seattle Times on May 1, 2012 released the following:

“Federal prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against three Somalis charged with fatally shooting four Americans aboard a hijacked yacht last year.

By BROCK VERGAKIS
Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. —
Federal prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty against three Somalis charged with fatally shooting four Americans aboard a hijacked yacht last year.

Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar could also face the death penalty on numerous other charges related to the February, 2011 hijacking. They include hostage taking resulting in death, violence against maritime navigation resulting in death and kidnapping resulting in death. In total, 22 of the 26 counts are death-eligible offenses.

The decision to seek the death penalty is made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. A document disclosing the prosecutors’ intent was filed on Monday.

The owners of the yacht Quest, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., along with friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were the first Americans to be killed in a wave of pirate attacks off the coast of east Africa despite an international flotilla of warships that regularly patrol the area. Ships and their crews are typically targeted by pirates in hopes of securing multi-million dollar ransoms.

Pirates had been hoping to bring the Americans back to Somalia to conduct ransom negotiations, but that plan fell apart when U.S. Navy warships began shadowing the Quest.

The destroyer USS Sterett was maneuvering between the Quest and the Somali coast when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at it. Soon after, shots were fired on board the Quest.

In all, 19 men boarded the American yacht during the hijacking. Four of the hijackers died on board – including two who have also been identified in court records as those who shot at the Americans. One person was released by authorities because he is a juvenile. Eleven other men have pleaded guilty to piracy and been sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the case.

A 12th man who never boarded the Quest and was identified as the lead hostage negotiator was convicted of piracy on Friday. He also faces a mandatory life sentence.

Prosecutors wanted to wait until that case was over before unsealing their filing to seek the death penalty involving the three Somalis because they are concerned about the publicity it might bring. The filing submitted Monday seeks to unseal that filing.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

————————————————————–

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Three Somalis Charged with Death-Eligible Counts in Murder of Four U.S. Citizens

July 10, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) New York Field Office on July 8, 2011 released the following:

“NORFOLK, VA—Three men from Somalia have been charged in a 26-count superseding indictment with the kidnapping, hostage-taking, and murder of four U.S. citizens during the alleged piracy against the S/V Quest. Twenty-two of the 26 counts are death-eligible offenses related to the murders of Scott Underwood Adam, Jean Savage Adam, Phyllis Patricia Macay, and Robert Campbell Riggle on Feb. 22, 2011. To date, 11 of the 14 charged in connection with the attack on the Quest have pled guilty to mandatory life in prison.

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) of the FBI’s New York Field Office; Alex J. Turner, Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office; and Mark Russ, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in Norfolk, made the announcement after the superseding indictment was returned. An arraignment has been scheduled for July 20, 2011.

“Today’s superseding indictment charges three men from Somalia with brutally murdering four American citizens held hostage for ransom,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “This past March, the grand jury returned an indictment against these defendants, and others, with piracy in the armed hijacking of an U.S.-flagged yacht. The superseding indictment accuses these three men of summarily executing the hostages—without provocation—while the military was attempting to negotiate their release. With the additional charges, the defendants now potentially face a death sentence if convicted of these horrendous crimes, and the superseding indictment constitutes another important step in bringing to justice those accused of being directly responsible for the killing of innocent Americans. Today’s charges underscore that we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to attacks on our citizens.”

“The charges announced in today’s superseding indictment send a strong message to those who seek to harm Americans on the high seas: you will be subject to American justice,” said FBI ADIC Fedarcyk. “Modern-day pirates remain a very real danger; the FBI joins our international law enforcement partners in our mutual goal of maintaining the rule of law on the high seas.”

“NCIS is committed to—as in the Quest case—capturing and prosecuting alleged pirates through our participation in the FBI’s JTTF but also, to the extent possible, preventing piracy by being the primary law enforcement member of counter-piracy task force CTF-151 since its inception,” said NCIS SAC Russ. “NCIS is uniquely qualified for that mission because we operate daily in a maritime environment around the world to protect Naval personnel and assets.“

According to the superseding indictment, Ahmed Muse Salad, a/k/a “Afmagalo,” 25; Abukar Osman Beyle, 20; and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar, 29, and others—armed with firearms and a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG)—boarded the Quest on Feb. 18, 2011, and allegedly gained control of the vessel and took the four American citizens as hostages. As the conspirators sailed toward Somalia, the three defendants and their co-conspirators took turns standing armed guard over the hostages.

Beginning on Feb. 20, 2011, the United States Navy and the FBI began negotiating with the pirates to secure the release of the hostages. The indictment alleges that after two co-conspirators were transferred to the Navy vessel on Feb. 21, 2011, to represent the conspirators onboard the Quest, Abrar fired a shot over the head of Scott Underwood Adam and instructed Adam to tell the Navy that if the military came any closer, the conspirators would kill the hostages.

After a co-conspirator fired an RPG in the vicinity of the Navy vessel, the USS Sterett, the indictment accuses Salad, Beyle, Abrar, and other co-conspirators of intentionally shooting and killing the four U.S. citizens on Feb. 22, 2011, without provocation before the hostages could be rescued by members of the military, who had been attempting to secure the release of the hostages through negotiation with the conspirators.

On March 8, 2011, the three men were among 14 defendants charged with piracy, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and the use of a destructive device during a crime of violence. Today, Salad, Beyle, and Abrar were charged in a superseding indictment with the following alleged crimes:

  • Conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or mandatory life in · · Four counts of hostage taking resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or mandatory life in prison.
  • Conspiracy to commit kidnapping, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
  • Four counts of kidnapping resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or mandatory life in prison.
  • Conspiracy to commit violence against maritime navigation resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or a maximum of life in prison.
  • Four counts of violence against maritime navigation resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or a maximum of life in prison.
  • Piracy under the law of nations, which carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison.
  • Two counts of use, carry, and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence, which carries a mandatory minimum of 30 years and a maximum of life in prison, consecutive to all other counts.
  • Four counts of use, brandish, and discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in death, which carries a penalty of death or a maximum of life in prison.

The investigation of the case is being conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The prosecution in the Eastern District of Virginia is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin L. Hatch, Joseph DePadilla and Brian J. Samuels, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Trial Attorney Paul Casey from the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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