Just four months after the Boston marathon bombing, two federal judges on a three-judge panel have overturned the conviction of the Oregon-based Islamic “charity leader” and terrorist fundraiser Pete Seda, who helped facilitate the transfer of $130,000 to Chechen terrorists in the early 2000s.
Activists like Seda have served as key conduits for funneling zakat donations from Western countries through Islamic front charities to jihadist causes around the world. The revenues supported the creation of websites and recruitment tools that helped radicalize North Caucasus diaspora like Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Seda’s conviction was overturned by Judge Mary Schroeder, who was appointed by Jimmy Carter, and Judge Margaret McKeown, who was appointed by Bill Clinton and considered for a Supreme Court appointment by Barack Obama, on the grounds of alleged unfairness during the Seda investigation and trial.
The two judges claim that the Seda trial began as a white collar crime case but ended as a terrorism case, that some information about a witness named Barbara Cabral was not shared with defense attorneys, and that the scope of a warrant served against Seda before the trial was exceeded by law enforcement.
Meanwhile, Judge Robert Tallman, a Republican who was appointed by Bill Clinton, delivered a vigorous dissent from the liberal judges’ opinion. Oregon’s Daily Tidings summarizes Judge Tallman’s reasoning:
…In his dissenting opinion, Judge Richard Tallman wrote that the majority judges in the appeal improperly failed to take into consideration that [trial court judge] Hogan held a separate hearing on the Cabral issues before ruling the evidence would not have changed the jury’s verdict.
Tallman wrote that the appellate judges should not reverse Hogan’s ruling without it being “clearly erroneous,” which was not the case.
Moreover, Tallman’s minority opinion argued that the scope of the search warrant was not breached by agents searching Seda’s computers and that the other issues do not rise to the level necessary for overturning the jury’s guilty verdict.
Tallman also took issue with the majority opinion’s apparent dismissing of the key evidence in the actual tax fraud and conspiracy charges that were at the core of the case against Seda.
Seda and his codefendant, a Saudi national named Soliman Al-Buthe, went to great lengths and expenses to convert funds wired to Al-Haramain into $130,000 worth of hard-to-trace $1,000 cashier’s checks that Al-Buthe then carried from Ashland to Saudi Arabia in 2000, according to Tallman’s opinion.
Al-Buthe, also known as Al-Buthi, did so in violation of federal financial-reporting rules that he had complied with on nine other occasions, Tallman noted.
Also, Al-Buthe carried with him and failed to report that he was carrying a cashier’s check made out to him at an Ashland bank for $21,000, which Al-Buthe deposited in his personal bank account in Saudi Arabia.
“A reasonable jury could have concluded on this evidence that this was Al-Buthe’s ‘cut’ for serving as the courier,” Tallman wrote.
The jury also heard plenty of evidence on what Tallman calls the “deceitful manner” in which Seda hid the smuggled money by falsely declaring on a tax return that the money went toward the purchase of a prayer house in Missouri.
Had the men’s intent been not to smuggle the money to the Middle East, Seda simply could have wired the money directly to Al-Haramain’s main office in Saudi Arabia for about $15, Tallman wrote.
“The jury obviously thought the entire handling of the money reeked of criminal intent, as evidenced by its verdict,” Tallman wrote.
Hat tip to Rushette for alerting us to the appeals court decision.