Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Alan Colmes and the HLF Case

I appeared on "Hannity and Colmes" Monday night (see video and transcript posted here ) to explain why the Holy Land Foundation mistrial, while disappointing, was not the exoneration for the defense the group's allies are proclaiming. Unfortunately, the viewers were denied that viewpoint because host Alan Colmes could get the most basic fact about the case correct.
Colmes repeatedly insisted that three defendants had been found not guilty of the counts against them. That's simply not true. Defendant Mohammed El-Mezain was acquitted of most of the counts against him. But jurors deadlocked on the first count, a conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.
All the other defendants' cases ended in a mistrial. Initially, it did appear that more defendants were found not guilty. But after U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish polled the panel individually, it became clear that three jurors felt the verdicts were incorrect.
Colmes actually got the intro mostly correct – but called Judge Fish's declaration of a mistrial "unusual" even though he had just read that three jurors disputed the outcome.
I told him "on five of the six defendants, there's a mistrial, which means there's going to be a re-do entirely. So they were not acquitted, Alan."
Colmes then incorrectly claimed Mufid Abdulqader was acquitted on all counts and two others were acquitted on most counts. That contradicts what Colmes himself said 30 seconds earlier.

"The New York Times, the Associated Press reported exactly what I just said."
Not quite. When I tried to correct him, Colmes fired back, "Don't insult me Steve. The fact is that I'm reporting to you what the Associated Press and the New York Times reported. If you have a different view, that's fine. But don't tell me I'm wasting time on my own show when we invite you on as a guest."
I think a host has an obligation to treat a guest with more courtesy. And to start by getting the most fundamental facts straight.

The New York Times reported the trial's outcome this way:
In the verdict, the jury said it failed to reach a decision on any of the charges against the charity and two of its main organizers, but acquitted three defendants on almost all counts.

But in a highly unusual development, when the judge polled the jurors, three members said that verdict did not represent their views. He sent them off deliberate again; after about 40 minutes, they said they could not continue.
In the end, one defendant, Mohammed El-Mezain, was acquitted on all but one charge, involving conspiracy, on which the jury failed to reach a verdict. A mistrial was declared on that count, and on all the other counts involving the other defendants. (Italics added)

Sound familiar? Here's what the AP reported: DALLAS (AP) — The biggest terror-financing trial since Sept. 11 ended in confusion Monday, with no one convicted and many acquittals thrown out after three jurors took the rare step of disputing the verdict.

So Colmes had it wrong, all the while holding up "mainstream media" sources in accusing me of having made the mistake. To top it off, he completely mischaracterized the charges, describing "sponsoring fundraising events [in] which skits were performed advocating violence. That's really what the charges are."
Here's the indictment. You can see the charges include conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, providing money, goods and services to a terrorist organization and money laundering.

Now, here's why it's not the victory being touted – the men find themselves today exactly where they were when the indictment was issued. Prosecutors can study the case, refine it and learn from the first trial.

And we, the American public, know far more now than we knew in July about HLF and its deep roots to Hamas, including its place on a Muslim Brotherhood-created "Palestine Committee " that was created to further Hamas objectives. HLF and its officers spent years denying any involvement with – or support for – Hamas. Documents such as this and reams of transcripts of the defendants' private conversations entered into evidence, expose that lie for all to see. That may or may not be criminal, but it is something we never would have learned without this prosecution.

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