DOJ Releases Najibullah Zazi Complaints and Warrants

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado has released the arrest warrants and complaints for Najibullah Zazi, his father Mohammed Zazi and a third individual, Ahmad Wais Afzali, charged in the Eastern District of New York, along with a press release. They are charged with making false statements related to international or domestic terrorism, which carries a maximum penalty of 8 years. (See 18 USC 1001 (a)(2). Here are the documents:

Interestingly, the Afzali complaint has more details about Najibullah than the Najibullah complaint. The Afzali complaint says that Najibullah had a proffer agreement with the feds for his interviews. And, it says Najibullah told the feds he took courses at an al-Qaida training facility in Pakistan and received instruction from al-Qaida operatives in weapons and explosives. [More...]

Turns out Afzali was allegedly working both sides of the fence. He had been an informant for the NYPD. After they asked about Najibullah and showed him his photo, he told Mohammed Zazi about it. Mohammed called his son (then in NY) and told him to speak to Afzali. While Mohammed and Najibullah were still on the phone, Afzali called Najibullah and they discussed the cops' interest in him.

Since the feds had wires up, they intercepted all these calls. They then called Afzali in for an interview about his calls with the Zazis. Afzali told the feds (in a written statement no less, after waiving his Miranda rights) he spoke to both of them but denied or omitted some details of the conversations. Result: A false statement charge for Afzali.

When they quizzed Mohammed about whether he had spoken to Afzali, Mohammed denied it and denied knowing anyone named Afzali. Result: A false statement charge for Mohammed.

Najibullah's complaint charges him with making some false statements about handwritten notes found on his laptop that contained details about making explosives. The feds think he may have written the notes. Najibullah told them he had never seen the notes and hadn't written them. If they were on his computer, he said he probably downloaded them by mistake and deleted them.

The Government is seeking detention for Najibullah Zazi but will agree to bond for Mohammed Zazi. They will appear in court on Monday.

Bottom line: I think it was a disasterous decision for Najibullah to voluntarily talk to the feds. He had no idea what information they had. Had he kept his mouth shut, there would be no false statement charge. If he's convicted of the false statement charge, he will be deported after he serves any sentence. (His father is a U.S. citizen.) If his goal in talking was to clear his name, that certainly failed. If it was to get a sweetheart deal, that seems to have backfired too.

I have a hearing in one of my federal cases Monday morning, and if it's not at the same time as the Zazis', I'll try to attend it as well.

< FBI Descends on Najibullah Zazi's Apartment, Arrest Zazi and His Father | Sunday Morning Football Open Thread >
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    Do you know the lawyer? (none / 0) (#1)
    by MikeDitto on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 09:54:11 AM EST
    Do you think he gave the kid the same advice and the kid didn't listen, or is this the case of a contracts lawyer doing criminal defense as a favor or something?

    I can certainly see the logic in talking to the FBI when you're an Afghan citizen who could just as easily be rendered back to your home country or elsewhere.

    But I would think any lawyer worth his salt would remember what happened to Richard Jewell, whose only real payback for all the leaks of misinformation by the government was to punch Will Farrell dressed up like Janet Reno on Saturday Night Live.

    I don't know him (n/t) (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 12:05:53 PM EST
    I don't like the whole (none / 0) (#3)
    by Zorba on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 05:40:36 PM EST
    "making false statements" charge.  It's what they ultimately got Martha Stewart on, and a whole host of other people.  The lesson here is, if the feds question you, politely tell them you want to consult your attorney first, and then do what the attorney says.  (On the other hand, you would think that people would have learned by now, "Don't lie to the feds.  Clam up."