Juror Michael Silva clearly didn’t feel threatened by the defendants, explaining after the trial, “It was not like [prosecutors] had evidence of somebody planting explosives.” Silva did not state that he pushed for a universal acquittal, but Agron said that a different juror kept insisting during deliberations that explosives being planted or something similar would have been necessary.
Never mind that one of the charges brought against each of the defendants—conspiracy to support al Qaeda—required no imminent attacks or anything beyond an agreement to support bin Laden’s network. Swearing an oath to al Qaeda clearly satisfies that requirement, but the defendants also took reconnaissance photos of government buildings—more than enough under the law to convict on the conspiracy charge.
Not discussed in the post-trial analyses is something very much on the minds of people responsible for putting away terrorists, namely that Islamic pressure groups, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), may have made it substantially more difficult to win convictions in terror trials.
For years, CAIR and its ilk have spewed hyperbolic rhetoric casting Muslims nationwide as the victims of an Islamophobic law enforcement. And the narrative of a government hellbent on prosecuting as a terrorist any Muslim opposed to U.S. policies has found a receptive audience outside the Islamic community.
Lending credibility to these obscene charges are none other than high-ranking government—and law enforcement—officials, who headline events sponsored by CAIR, Islamic Society of North America and other Islamic conspiracy theorists. The government is, in short, legitimizing those who seek to de-legitimize them.
Several people who have been closely involved in terrorism trials have noticed unusual skepticism of the government’s motives and evidence in prosecutions of Muslims facing terror-related charges. One government official described an incident where a juror openly insinuated that the accused Muslim was the victim of anti-Islamic bias.
It’s entirely possible that knee-jerk distrust of the government played a role in two high-profile cases. Mountains of damning evidence existed in the prosecutions of Sami al-Arian in Florida and the Holy Land Foundation executives in Texas, yet neither trial yielded any convictions.
Unusual—and unsubstantiated—skepticism of the government is the only rational explanation in the Liberty City mistrial. To the jury’s acquittal hardliners, hundreds of recorded conversations and intercepted phone calls were trumped by Batiste’s uncorroborated, after-the-fact story that he was trying to get money for a community center.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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