As Justice Department investigates shooting of Florida teen, doubts arise about federal charges

March 21, 2012

The Washington Post on March 20, 2012 released the following:

“By Sari Horwitz,

The decision by the Justice Department and the FBI to open an investigation into the slaying of an unarmed black teenager in Florida has spurred internal debate at the agency over whether the federal government could bring criminal charges in the case, which has sparked widespread protest.

Lawyers at the department said Tuesday that while the investigation into the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin would go forward, it would be difficult to prosecute the case under federal law. Civil rights law protects against “hate crimes” or actions by police officers, but Martin’s shooting may not have either of those elements, two officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the probe is still under federal review.

Martin was shot and killed Feb. 26 by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, who told police he was acting in self-defense. Zimmerman, 28, had called police from his car after he saw Martin walking in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.

According to the 911 tapes, Zimmerman told the dispatcher, “this guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something . . . they always get away.” The dispatcher told Zimmerman not to follow, saying an officer was on the way. Minutes later, Martin was shot in the chest.

No charges have been brought against Zimmerman. Along with the Justice investigation, a local grand jury will consider evidence in the case.

Zimmerman’s family described him as “a Spanish-speaking minority,” and his father released a statement to the Orlando Sentinel saying his son did not target Martin because he was black.

Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said Monday, “I don’t understand why this man has not been arrested . . . let a judge and jury decide if he’s guilty.”

Lawyer Benjamin Crump, who represents Martin’s parents, said at a news conference in Florida on Tuesday that the teenager was on a cellphone with his girlfriend in Miami when he told her he was being followed, according to the Associated Press. She said Martin told her that he was trying to get away.

Crump, who did not release the name of Martin’s girlfriend because of privacy concerns, said she heard a scuffle and an altercation before the call was cut off.

Martin had not been using drugs or alcohol and would have had no reason to confront Zimmerman, Crump said in an interview. He had been watching basketball at his father’s girlfriend’s house when he went to a nearby 7-Eleven store for a snack, Crump said.

A bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea were on his body when police arrived.

Rallies have been held across Florida, with students calling for Zimmerman’s arrest, and the Rev. Al Sharpton will hold a national rally Thursday in Sanford.

Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights, met in Washington on Tuesday with Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla). Brown urged Perez to prosecute the case as a hate crime.

Stephen A. Saltzburg, a professor at George Washington University Law School, called the case “a difficult one for the Justice Department.”

“This may be somebody who is racially biased, but from the 911 calls, it looks as though, however misguided this guy was, he thought that Trayvon was involved in some kind of suspicious activity,” Saltzburg said. “Race may play a role, but I just think it will be hard to bring this as a federal hate crime, given the limited reach of federal hate-crimes law.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa issued a statement late Monday saying that in civil rights crimes, the government “must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which law forbids — the highest level of intent in criminal law.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney offered condolences to the Martin family but said the White House was “not going to wade into a local law enforcement matter.””

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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

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch 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 and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

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.


Indictments brought against suspect in Queens mosque, temple attacks

March 20, 2012

CNN on March 19, 2012 released the following:

“By Kendall Green, CNN

New York (CNN) — Authorities on Monday unsealed parallel indictments against Ray Lazier Lengend, who is accused of firebombing a mosque and a Hindu temple in Queens in January.

The seven-count federal indictment and 36-count state indictment charge Lengend with hate crimes and explosives offenses.

“Hate crimes offend the very principles upon which this country was founded, and those who engage in such conduct will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This defendant allegedly sought to fan the flames of ethnic and religious tension. Those flames will always be extinguished by the rule of law,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch.

The 40-year-old unemployed tow-truck driver, who confessed to a firebombing spree on New Year’s Day, is no stranger to confinement.

New York City police said Wednesday that Lengend had been arrested at least six times before they detained him in connection with a series of attacks that spanned two neighborhoods in the city.

Police say the attacks are thought to stem from a list of grievances he tallied against his alleged victims over the course of a few years. The gripes range from Islamic center personnel refusing him use of their bathroom to a grocer who caught him stealing.

Police accuse Lengend of filling Frappuccino bottles from Starbucks with an accelerant and flinging them against buildings and residences in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, as well as against the home of one of his relatives living in neighboring Elmont, on Long Island.

But one of the attacks, targeting a Hindu temple, was actually the result of a wrong address, authorities later reported.

Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne added that Lengend, who had “a gripe with someone at each location,” was taken to Bellevue Hospital because he was demonstrating what police described as irrational behavior.

A dramatic video released by police two days earlier showed a person lobbing a flaming object toward a building, and a fiery explosion erupting an instant later.

No injures were reported in any of the incidents.

Authorities say they found Lengend by way of a stolen car with Virginia license plates spotted near at least one of the attacks.

The Buick, which police believe he stole from a rental car lot at John F. Kennedy International Airport on December 30, may have been used to flee the scene following the bombings.

Prior to the New Year’s charges, Browne noted, the most serious charge lodged against the Queens resident occurred in 2009 over the alleged possession of a loaded firearm in Long Island’s Nassau County.

Lengend is currently jailed on Rikers Island, according to spokeswoman for New York City Department of Corrections. He will be arraigned March 26 at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse.

Lengend is charged with arson as a hate crime, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, criminal possession of a weapon, endangering the welfare of a child and other charges, according to a press release from the Queens County District Attorney’s Office.

If convicted, Lengend faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Lengend’s lawyer, Kenneth Dean, could not be reached for comment.”

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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 – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch 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 and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

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.


Cody Crawford Indicted by a Eugene Federal Grand Jury for Allegedly Setting Fire to the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center

August 26, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on August 25, 2011 released the following:

“Oregon Man Charged with Hate Crime for Arson at Mosque

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department announced today that a federal grand jury in Eugene, Ore., has indicted Cody Crawford, 24, of Corvallis, Ore., on federal hate crime and arson charges for intentionally setting fire to the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center.

According to the indictment, Crawford is charged with one count of damaging religious property and one count of arson. Crawford allegedly set fire to the mosque during the early morning hours of Nov. 28, 2010, less than two days after authorities arrested an individual in connection with the Portland Christmas Tree Lighting terror plot. The indictment alleges that Crawford set the fire because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of individuals associated with the mosque.

“Burning a house of worship because of hatred toward members of one religion is not just an attack on that religion; it is an attack on our core American values,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will aggressively protect the rights of all persons to worship without fear of violence or intimidation.”

“Freedom of religion is essential to who we are as Americans,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Dwight C. Holton. “We will not tolerate attacks based on faith.”

“The ability to live, work, and worship freely, without fear or intimidation, is the very foundation of our society. We cannot allow any person to threaten the rights of those citizens we are sworn to protect,” said Greg Fowler, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “Today’s arrest demonstrates our continued commitment to the FBI’s core mission: to protect our community and to protect the rights of all Americans as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”

If convicted, Crawford faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years in prison.

This case is being investigated by the Portland Division of the FBI, the Corvallis Police Department, and the Corvallis Fire Department, in conjunction with the Benton County District Attorney; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Benton County Sheriff’s Office; and the Monmouth and McMinnville Police Departments. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William E. (Bud) Fitzgerald for the District of Oregon and Trial Attorney Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read 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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