A federal judge in Michigan has ordered a man suspected of supporting terrorist groups held on allegations he tried to crash into the car of an FBI agent who was following him as part of heightened security for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Reed S. Berry, 26, of St. Joseph was under surveillance because of his suspected terrorist links, according to an FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
The government has said the links include Internet communication with one or more groups involved in international terrorism.
Defense lawyer Elias Muawad said what the government has labeled terrorist links in court filings appear to be online speech protected by the First Amendment. He also said his client, Berry, has been upset about being under investigation for months, subject to searches and barred from air travel.
"He was feeling like a caged person," Muawad told The Associated Press on Sunday.
According to the Sept. 23 complaint that charged Berry with assaulting a federal officer, the FBI executed a search warrant March 9 seeking evidence linking Berry to foreign terrorist groups.
"The FBI investigation to date has developed information that Berry was using the Internet both to contact and to provide affirmative support to one or more FTOs," or foreign terrorist organizations, the complaint said.
The FBI then got a warrant May 11 to search Berry's Yahoo email account, and investigators now are reviewing its contents, the complaint said.
In anticipation of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, "the FBI decided to maintain around-the-clock knowledge of Berry's whereabouts that weekend," the complaint said.
FBI Special Agent Samuel Moore and Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Larry Dyksterhouse were watching Berry the night of Sept. 9 and had been told that their "target" was aware he was under surveillance, the complaint said.
The agents followed Berry as he drove around Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. They said he traveled to various locations and at one point turned his headlights off and just sat in the vehicle.
Moore said Berry eventually put his car in reverse and began speeding toward Moore's stopped vehicle. The agent said he "immediately accelerated forward and to the hard left, avoiding a direct collision" with Berry.
On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Hugh Brenneman in Grand Rapids ordered Berry detained before the assault trial.
"In addition to the present offense, defendant is well aware the FBI is using considerable resources to investigate whether defendant has been participating in terrorist-related activities," Brenneman wrote in his order that Berry stay behind bars until trial.
Brenneman also cited the fact that Berry has a wife in London and "has told the FBI he wants to leave this country and never return." And, the judge said, Berry's state criminal record shows "a repeated disregard of the judicial system" with bond and parole revocations.
Berry was freed from a Michigan prison this year after serving a sentence for delivery or manufacture of marijuana, according to state Department of Corrections records. The records show the offense happened in Berrien County on Oct. 13, 2006, when he was 21.
Muawad said the handling of his client has been excessively harsh. He said there has been no evidence released so far that links Berry to plans for any terrorist actions, weapons or methods.
"Flight was a minor issue," Muawad said. "They took away his passport. Where's he going to go?"