Najibullah Zazi's Legal Representation
Mohammed Zazi, father of Najibullah Zazi, is now represented by the Federal Defender's office in Colorado. Colorado has excellent federal defenders and he will get quality representation.
What about Najibullah? He told the court today he wanted to stay with Arthur Folsom, the lawyer he met for the first time on Tuesday of last week, who took him to the FBI office on Wednesday, had him waive his right to remain silent, provide fingerprint, DNA and handwriting samples and for the next three days released personal details about his client's life and activities to the media. Folsom and the PR rep he (presumably) hired didn't stop talking until Saturday, when things went south. As a result of the chain of events Folsom set in motion, Zazi, his father and a third man in New York are now charged with making false statements to federal officials, an offense that carries up to 8 years in prison. And the feds have a wealth of information about Zazi, his family and a lot of other people it would have taken them months or years, if ever, to gather. [More...]
Folsom is not a federal criminal defense lawyer and he has no experience in terrorism cases. He chose a strategy for his client that has had profoundly negative consequences. Without knowing a shred of evidence the feds had compiled against his client, or even whether his 24 year old client whom he met a day earlier was telling him the truth, he trotted him down to the feds and in front of the media. [More...]
Zazi will have a detention hearing on Thursday. If he is ordered detained, he will stay in jail for the duration of the case. Given that the feds are still building their case, hoping to add terror charges, Zazi could be in jail for a year or more prior to trial.
The Government already has filed a notice that it intends to introduce or use evidence obtained via FISA warrants. Defending Zazi is likely to be a full-time job for many months -- and most likely will require more than one lawyer, as well as paralegals and experts in everything from handwriting and forensic disciplines to wiretapping, FISA, classified information procedures and terrorism. It will cost a small fortune to do it right.
Zazi is an airport van driver coming out of bankruptcy. He can't possibly have the funds for both counsel and the necessary team of experts.
Perhaps Folsom could bring in an experienced lawyer as co-counsel. Even if finances weren't an issue, I think that ship has sailed. What experienced federal defense attorney in private practice would want to sign on with Folsom now that the case has reached this point? (Update: Folsom's PR rep now says he's in discussions with private counsel to "expand the legal team.")
The Federal Defender's office can only take one defendant in a case, given the potential for conflict of interest. Now that it has been appointed for Zazi's father, it can't also represent Zazi. Zazi's only option, other than staying with Folsom, is to request appointed counsel under the Criminal Justice Act. There are 150 Colorado lawyers on the CJA panel, with varying degrees of federal criminal experience (although all have more than Folsom.) Given a case of this magnitude, the Court would not only appoint one who is highly qualified, but upon reeasonable request, would appoint more than one. In addition to counsel, the court would authorize payment for experts, private investigators, paraglegals, etc.
The statement by Folsom's PR spokesperson today that Folsom's inexperience in federal cases doesn't mean much because this region doesn't have many lawyers experienced in dealing with federal courts and the FBI, is just not true. This is hardly the District's first terror case and a number of lawyers here specialize in federal criminal defense. In addition, many excellent private attorneys accept a limited number of CJA cases. I can think of a dozen or more qualified counsel off the top of my head.
I think it's only a matter of time before Folsom drops out of the case. I hope it's not too late for whoever succeeds him to repair some of the damage. Zazi is entitled to the presumption of innocence. There's not been a shred of evidence tested in court that he's involved in terrorism. Yet, he's quickly losing the presumption in the court of public opinion.
By the time the Court gets around to imposing a restriction on extra-judicial comments in the case, the image of Zazi as the guy the feds say is "the real deal" who "lied to the FBI" about bomb-making notes on his computer will be cemented in the public's consciousness. If and when the charges are upgraded to include terror offenses, it may be very difficult to find an impartial jury.
Folsom seems like a pleasant fellow whose heart is in the right place. But he needs to ask himself whether he has the skills and experience necessary to help his client in what promises to be a bruising battle ahead. I think he will come to the right decision.
[Our prior coverage of the Zazi case is assembled here.]
|< Brain Study Shows Torture Doesn't Work | Brazil Takes Center Stage In Honduras >|