Oct. 2

The Taos News - - LOCAL NEWS -

Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj, Jany Leveille, Lu­cas Mor­ton, Hu­jrah Wah­haj, Sub­han­nah Wah­haj – U.S. District Court (Al­bu­querque), Río Grande Court­room, Judge Kir­tan Khalsa

A United States at­tor­ney in Al­bu­querque filed a mo­tion this fall in­di­cat­ing that ter­ror­ism and kid­nap­ping charges may be added to a fed­eral firearms case filed against five adults ar­rested at a makeshift com­pound near Amalia in early Au­gust.

The case orig­i­nated with child abuse charges filed in the Taos County court sys­tem. The five adults were charged with keep­ing 11 chil­dren, and a twelfth child, who was later found dead at the prop­erty, in squalid liv­ing con­di­tions. The twelfth child suf­fered from seizures and was al­legedly kid­napped by his fa­ther, Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj, from his mother’s home in Ge­or­gia in Novem­ber 2017.

Firearms, high quan­ti­ties of am­mu­ni­tion, a shoot­ing range and ma­te­ri­als de­scrib­ing how to carry out a ter­ror­ist at­tack were also found at the com­pound, lo­cated a few miles south of the Colorado bor­der.

Al­le­ga­tions of an al­leged plot to train the chil­dren who lived at the com­pound to at­tack “gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions,” as de­tailed in a jour­nal be­long­ing to Leveille, were ref­er­enced in de­ten­tion hear­ings later in the month. Records of for­eign travel to Saudi Ara­bia and Mo­rocco by an­other de­fen­dant, Si­raj Ibn Wah­haj, were also ref­er­enced by pros­e­cu­tors. Charges re­lated to ter­ror­ism, how­ever, were never filed.

After Taos County pros­e­cu­tors failed to hold pre­lim­i­nary hear­ings for the de­fen­dants in ac­cor­dance with state dead­lines, the abuse charges were dropped. The five were then ar­rested at the end of Au­gust on a fed­eral com­plaint al­leg­ing they had pro­vided Leveille, an un­doc­u­mented Haitian im­mi­grant, with firearms, and had aided her in cross­ing state lines, from Ge­or­gia to New Mex­ico, with the weapons.

The com­plaint also charged the five with con­spir­acy, a charge that pros­e­cu­tor John C. An­der­son de­scribed as “broad” in the re­cent mo­tion. An­der­son moved to de­lay a trial for the fed­eral case, which had been set for Nov. 5, to al­low both the gov­ern­ment and the de­fen­dants time to pre­pare for new charges in the case. He said an on­go­ing fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion may soon bring fed­eral charges of kid­nap­ping and “pro­vid­ing ma­te­rial sup­port to ter­ror­ists.”

De­fense coun­sel for all five de­fen­dants sub­mit­ted a mo­tion at the end of Oc­to­ber that rec­om­mended lan­guage of “un­nec­es­sary and ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­flam­ma­tory and prej­u­di­cial al­le­ga­tions of ter­ror­ism and mis­treat­ment of chil­dren” be struck from the case. They ar­gued that such claims did not per­tain to the charges filed and would un­fairly bias a jury.

As for the pos­si­ble ter­ror­ism charge, the de­fense at­tor­neys ar­gued that no con­nec­tion has been drawn be­tween their clients and any known ter­ror­ist group.

The de­fen­dants are cur­rently de­tained, fol­low­ing a Septem­ber find­ing by fed­eral Judge Kir­tan Khalsa that all five posed a dan­ger to the com­mu­nity.

For more on this case, re­fer to our past cov­er­age on­line at bit.ly/2EeiDwN.

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