WARRENSBURG, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge denied bond for a 24-year-old Saudi man accused of hiring his roommate to kill a local bar owner, ruling Monday that the former college student was unlawfully in the U.S. and could be held in jail even though his home government put up $2 million for his bond.
Circuit Judge Michael Wagner said no amount of sureties could guarantee that Ziyad Abid wouldn't be deported by the U.S. government if he were released from jail. Abid had been living legally in the U.S. while studying at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg but lost his student visa around the time of his Sept. 5 arrest.
Abid and his former roommate, Reginald Singletary Jr., are charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Warrensburg bar owner Blaine Whitworth. Prosecutors have released few details about the case, including what link Abid allegedly had to Whitworth, but Abid's attorneys said Abid had no connection to Whitworth and that Singletary had recently been fired as the bar's bouncer.
Bonds had been set for both men by Wagner's predecessor in the case, Circuit Judge Jacqueline Cook, who ruled in November that the Missouri Constitution required that Abid be allowed to post bond because he wasn't charged with capital murder. She set Abid's bond at $2 million and Singletary's at $1 million, but Wagner refused to release Abid after the Saudi government in April posted his bond amount.
In his ruling Monday, Wagner said there were no guarantees that the federal government wouldn't deport Abid ahead of his trial.
"If deportation occurs, then the defendant will never be subject to the legal process of this Court to determine his guilt or innocence and, if convicted, held accountable under the law to this Court or to the family of the victim for his crime," Wagner wrote in his ruling.
Wagner also denied a request from Missouri Assistant Attorney General David Hansen, who is acting as the special prosecutor in the case, to delay Abid's Aug. 20 trial date because he needs more time to prepare. Singletary's trial has been delayed until February.
Abid's attorneys told Wagner they filed a motion Monday for a speedy trial, noting that Abid has already been in jail for 314 days.
Defense attorney Pat Peters also said he is seeking to disqualify the attorney general's office from the case because it represented Wagner in May when defense attorneys asked a state appeals court to remove him from the case. The appeals court sided with Wagner, saying the defense motion was premature because the judge had offered to conduct a new bond hearing.
Abid, who appeared in court Monday wearing a suit, has been in custody since he was charged in connection with the Sept. 1 slaying of Whitworth, who was gunned down in his driveway. Singletary, 28, who had been living with Abid, admitting shooting Whitworth but told investigators Abid paid him to do it, according to court documents.
Peters said Singletary has refused to testify, but is negotiating with prosecutors on a possible plea deal, and without his cooperation the prosecution has no case.
"This may be the only case we can think of where one witness is the only linchpin on which everything else depends, and that's Mr. Singletary," Peters said. "We'd like to go to trial today. As of today, there is no witness for the state."
On Friday, defense attorneys again asked a Missouri appellate court to remove Wagner from the case and release Abid from jail. The court has not yet ruled on those requests.