News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Judge Declares Mistrial In Holy Land Case

By Bill Zeeble, KERA reporter

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kera/local-kera-641931.mp3

Dallas, TX – Bill Zeeble KERA reporter: William Neal, with 11 other jurors, listened to 8 weeks of testimony, then deliberated for another 4 weeks. The government alleged 5 members of the now-closed Muslim charity, the Holy Land Foundation, secretly sent money to the terror group Hamas, while masquerading as a charity. Neal says they didn't prove their case.
William Neal: There was no evidence. The evidence they had, there were so many gaps. We had evidence with 5-year gaps. You mean to tell me people don't change in 5 years? I thought not guilty all across the board, based on the evidence, and that's what we're there for.

Zeeble: Neal said on many of the hundred-97 total charges against the 5 defendants and the Holy Land Foundation itself, a small number of jurors voted guilty from the start, nearly without fail.

Neal: For people who thought they were guilty, you couldn't crack that egg with a brick. They were impenetrable. Guilty no matter. I don't care if there was evidence or not. It didn't matter.

Zeeble: Lead prosecutor Jim Jacks told judge Joe Fish that the government would re-try the defendants. Neither he nor other prosecutors could talk about this mistrial because of the judge's ongoing gag order. In the event of another trial, Mohammed El-Mezain, would face only one conspiracy charge, because the jury acquitted him, and only him, of all other charges. Juror Neal doesn't believe prosecutors will be any more successful a 2nd time around. Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation director, Mehdi Bray, says the government should drop this case, after failing in similar trials, in Florida and Illinois.

Mehdi Bray We know in baseball, it's 3 strikes and you're out. I'm from a fishing town. I know when you go fishing and after a while when you don't catch anything, you cut bait and go home.

Zeeble: The daughter of defendant Ghassan Elashi, Noor Elashi, said this case left her feeling betrayed by her government. But the jury's failure to find anyone guilty restored her faith in the system.

Noor Elashi, daughter of defendant: I'm the daughter of an American hero. He's a defendant like Rosa Parks was once singled out for sitting in front of the bus. My dad was singled out for clothing, feeding, and educating the poor in Palestine. Why? because giving charity to Palestinian people has become a crime in this country. The same country that has history of leaning towards pressures of the Israeli government.

Zeeble: Former U.S. Prosecutor Matthew Orwig says that even though prosecutors here say they'll retry the case, that's uncertain. The decision will ultimately be made in Washington.

Matthew Orwig, fomer U.S. prosecutor, Eastern District of Texas: I don't think they have enough information now to determine who they'll try again or even if they'll try anyone again.

Zeeble: Orwig says because of the mistrial in a case that's taken years for the government to develop, the outcome here essentially amounts to a prosecutorial failure that can only be termed a stunning defeat of the government. Bill Zeeble KERA news. Bzeeble@Kera.Org