Judge Refuses to Sentence Najibullah Zazi's Father as Terrorist

Mohammed Zazi, father of Najibullah Zazi, the Colorado resident convicted in New York of planning a subway terror attack, was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison today for obstruction of justice (lying to the FBI), conspiring to destroy his son's chemicals, goggles and paper masks (stored at his brother-in-law's house) and visa fraud. The visa fraud pertained to his falsely stating on on a visa application for his nephew that his nephew was his son. (Zazi came to the U.S. in 1990 and in 2007 became a naturalized U.S. Citizen.)

Prosecutors asked for 30 years, seeking to have him sentenced as a terrorist under the Sentencing Guidelines. The probation department agreed and concluded his guidelines were 360 months to life. Zazi asked for probation.

The judge rejected the request to sentence him as a terrorist. While he told Zazi his lies could have cost a lot of lives, he concluded "He wanted to keep his kid out of jail." [More...]

It was not alleged at trial that Zazi had destroyed his son's incriminating possessions, but that he directed other family members to do so. The evidence for the charge was the testimony of Zazi's brother-in-law and nephew (the one he sponsored to come to the U.S.) both of whom testified after cooperating with the Government in exchange for leniency for their own misdeeds.

His lies to the FBI involved his relationship with Queens-based imam, Ahmed Wais Afzali, and refusal to acknowledge they had spoken on the phone, and his false statement that his nephew was his adopted son. The Government also presented evidence (again through testimony of his brother-in-law and nephew) that he asked family members to lie to the grand jury and say his nephew was his adopted son. (Zazi never testified before the grand jury.)

Without the terrorism enhancement, the defense said Zazi's guidelines were 97 to 121 months.

Probation determined the terrorism enhancement applied because Mr. Zazi was convicted of “felonies that involved or were intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism, to wit, the subway plot.” Also, it found that Najibullahs' bombing plot “was intended to influence or affect the conduct of the United States by intimidation or coercion or retaliation against government conduct."

The defense argued in its sentencing memorandum, available on PACER, that "Mr. Zazi’s offenses neither directly involved nor were they intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism. In addition, Mr. Zazi’s conduct did not actually or significantly obstruct the government’s investigation."

His lawyers say that even after Najibullah started talking to the FBI, his father refused to believe he was involved something so sinister. He still struggles with trying to understand it.

Prosecutors acknowledged there was no evidence that Najibullah had told his father of the plot.

In short, Mr. Zazi was convicted at trial of two obstruction offenses, both of which occurred after his son had abandoned his plot and returned to Colorado (so neither furthered the plot) and later pleaded guilty to visa fraud. He had no prior arrests or convictions. I think the judge made the right call in not sentencing Zazi under the terrorist guidelines. I also think 4 1/2 years is more than enough punishment.

Najibullah Zazi is set for sentencing in July. First, he and another co-defendant, Zarein Ahmedzay, who has also pleaded guilty and cooperated, will testify at the trial of a remaining co-defendant, Adis Medunjanin.

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    Good for this judge, exercising some (5.00 / 0) (#1)
    by Peter G on Sat Feb 11, 2012 at 12:23:51 PM EST
    independent, human judgment.  We're talking here about U.S. District Judge John Gleeson, a former federal prosecutor, best known for convicting mafia boss John Gotti.