Kathleen M. Sullivan, former Harvard Law prof, says the judge made a “courageous and correct decision,” for “never before has there been a tax criminal prosecution for a charity failing to tell you that it’s sending out newsletters that somebody might not like.”
“Newsletters that somebody might not like.” Note that Kathleen M. Sullivan, former Harvard Law prof, is referring to what the article characterizes as “newsletters promoting jihad and supporting Islamic militants overseas.” If Massachusetts Care International really published such newsletters, maybe a “tax criminal prosecution” really isn’t the way to go. But there ought to be some other means of prosecution.
“Former head of Islamic charity freed in fraud case,” by Jonathan Saltzman in the Boston Globe, June 4 (thanks to all who sent this in):
A federal judge yesterday freed a former leader of a defunct Boston-based Islamic charity and set the stage to soon release another official from the group, after ruling that a jury should not have convicted them in January of most of the tax-related crimes for which they were tried.
Setting aside several verdicts, US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV acquitted Samir Al-Monla, 51, of Brookline, of conspiring to defraud the United States and of scheming to conceal the origins of the tax-exempt charity, Massachusetts Care International Inc., which allegedly published newsletters promoting jihad and supporting Islamic militants overseas. He was freed a couple of hours later.
Saylor acquitted Emadeddin Muntasser, 44, of Braintree, who owns Logan Furniture, of identical charges, but sustained his conviction for making a false statement to the FBI about having visited Afghanistan. However, federal sentencing guidelines call for a maximum of six months in prison for that crime, said Muntasser’s lawyers, and the founder of Care International has spent almost that long at a federal detention facility in Rhode Island since the Jan. 11 verdict. That makes it likely he will be freed within days, his lawyers said.
Elated supporters of Monla and Muntasser hugged one another and the defendants’ lawyers after the hearing. Several said the case would never have been brought if the men belonged to a non-Muslim charity.
Of course. This card, however preposterous, must never fail to be played.
“Thank God for our Constitution and for the checks and balances it puts in our judicial system,” said Muntasser’s brother, Benny, who immigrated with him to the United States from Libya. “We feel that there is a minority that bears some biases and prejudices against us. However, we feel grateful again for the federal judicial system . . . that is removed from politics and prejudices.”
In a ruling detailed from the bench for about 80 minutes, Saylor said federal prosecutors failed to prove that the two defendants schemed to deceive the IRS about Care International’s activities, even if they withheld information from other federal authorities. He also said that much of the government’s evidence against the two was flimsy or cobbled together with flawed reasoning.
US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, who had hailed the Jan. 11 convictions as a blow against those who abuse tax laws to support extremist groups, said he expects to seek permission from the US solicitor general’s office to appeal the ruling.
Saylor also dismissed a conspiracy conviction against the one-time treasurer of the group, Muhamed Mubayyid, 43, of Shrewsbury, but declined to overturn his convictions for five other offenses involving filing false tax returns.
Mubayyid’s lawyer, Michael C. Andrews, said his client was wrongly convicted of failing to disclose in the group’s 2000 tax return that it had published newsletters from 1993 to 1997 supporting jihad, before Mubayyid became treasurer. Those activities could have prompted the government to withdraw the charity’s tax-exempt status.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Andrews. “We maintain that he never knowingly made any false return.” He said Mubayyid could face one to six years in prison when sentenced next week.
Saylor’s ruling was a significant setback to the Justice Department and Sullivan. The US attorney issued a statement yesterday saying his prosecutors “respectfully disagree” with Saylor and expect to appeal to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Several friends and relatives of the three defendants said they believed the prosecutions stemmed from exaggerated fears of terrorism following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks….
Kathleen M. Sullivan – a former Harvard Law professor who teamed up with Susan R. Estrich, a one-time colleague at the school, to challenge the government’s case on Muntasser’s behalf – said the judge made a “courageous and correct decision.”
“Never before has there been a tax criminal prosecution for a charity failing to tell you that it’s sending out newsletters that somebody might not like,” she said….