Verdict closes 'worst' hate crime in Wash. history

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2009 6:13 PM

Jurors on Tuesday brought a close to a case described as Washington's worst hate crime, rejecting claims of legal insanity as they convicted a hate-spouting gunman of a deadly shooting rampage at a Seattle Jewish center in 2006.

Under the verdict, Naveed Haq, a 34-year-old with a long history of mental illness, will spend the rest of his life in prison rather than a state mental hospital, as his attorneys had sought.

"This was our state's worst hate crime," said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. "The jury held that holding extremist views does not make you insane, but it does make you dangerous."

Haq held a teenage girl at gunpoint as he forced his way into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on July 28, 2006, and opened fire, killing Pamela Waechter, director of the charity's annual fundraising campaign, as she fled down a stairwell. Five other women were wounded.

Handed a phone by a pregnant woman he had shot in the arm, Haq told an emergency dispatcher he was tired of Jews, Israel and U.S. foreign policy, and he wanted to get on CNN. Then he suddenly surrendered.

Haq's first trial ended last year with the jury deadlocked over whether he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Jurors this time had the benefit of evidence not presented during the first trial, including jailhouse recordings of Haq telling his mother, "I did a very good thing. I did it for a good reason."

Victims, supporters and members of the Jewish Federation wept, hugged and clasped hands as King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas read the jury's guilty verdicts on eight counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder, unlawful imprisonment and malicious harassment, the state's hate-crime law.

Victim Cheryl Stumbo heard that a verdict had been reached while she was at her doctor's office dealing with complications from a hysterectomy she underwent earlier this year to have a bullet removed.

She rushed to the courthouse in time to hear the decision.

She said the verdict validated her memory of Haq being calm and deliberate, not insane, as he stalked the federation offices on that horrific day.

"I couldn't be happier or more grateful," she said. "I felt like I was floating off the bench. I don't know what Pam (Waechter) would have wished for, but she got the justice she deserved."

Haq's attorneys declined to comment. They conceded during the trial that he committed the shootings and that he should never be free, but argued that his mental illness, described as schizoaffective disorder with bipolar tendencies, was to blame. Haq's condition had recently worsened due to medication changes, they said.

Prosecutors agreed he was mentally ill but said he nevertheless knew what he was doing during the shooting. They cited his meticulous planning: Haq made several trips to gun stores in the weeks prior to the attack, wrote two documents on his father's computer criticizing Israel and U.S. policy in the Middle East, and used MapQuest to find directions to the center from his family's home in Pasco, 180 miles east of Seattle.

"We waited throughout the trial with an open mind for some evidence he was insane, and it just never came," said juror John Bennett, 60, of Carnation.

During Haq's first trial, prosecutors did not present jailhouse recordings of Haq speaking to his mother. In one, when she said, "I know you're not well," he replied, "Whatever, Mom."

Senior deputy prosecutor Don Raz said that at the time of the first trial, case law wasn't clear as to whether such recordings were admissible as evidence. But since then, he said, two state Supreme Court rulings have made clear that they are.

Raz also said prosecutors did a better job this time undermining the testimony of the lead defense expert.

The shooting left one victim, Layla Bush, unable to walk. Another, Carol Goldman said she now volunteers at Harborview Medical Center, where the critically injured women were treated.

"I am relieved and very elated," Goldman said. "It was not insanity that led him to do this, but the hate in his heart."