January 16, 2009
Contempt Trial Set for March 9th. Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss Indictment
01.17.2009 | Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace
Still Provides Dr. Al-Arian With Defense / Sets Trial Date for March 9th
Alexandria CourthouseJanuary 16, 2009 – Alexandria, VA – A decisive hearing took place Friday in the criminal contempt case of Dr. Sami Al-Arian. The main issue before Judge Leonie Brinkema was the validity of the immunity order given to Dr. Al-Arian when Assistant US Attorney Gordon Kromberg called him to testify before a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia. The immunity order provided to Dr. Al-Arian featured added language that fundamentally altered it from the standard format approved by Congress and used in thousands of immunity orders given to grand jury witnesses across the country. In an unprecedented move, Kromberg included two more crimes not covered by the immunity, including obstruction of justice.
Although Judge Brinkema previously expressed serious concerns about the constitutionality of the orders in this case, she nevertheless denied Dr. Al-Arian’s motion to completely dismiss the charges on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct. She also denied Dr. Al-Arian’s motion to dismiss the charges based on selective prosecution despite the fact that only one other criminal contempt case has been brought before the Eastern District of Virginia in the past ten years, which was also against a Palestinian-American.
Sami Al-Arian with Lawyer Jonathan Turley
Upon denying the motions for dismissal of the case, Judge Brinkema then set a trial date of March 9th, noting that the case featured several unique issues, and that it was not a terrorism case. Despite this setback for the defense, the judge did grant, over the government’s objection, some of Dr. Al-Arian’s motions. These include the motion asking for the ability to argue before a jury that Dr. Al-Arian, in his refusal to give grand jury testimony, was relying on his plea agreement and the advice of counsel in his refusal to testify. (Dr. Al-Arian’s excellent legal team is led by George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley, and Will Olson and P.J. Meitl of Bryan Cave.) Professor Turley told reporters after the hearing that the attorneys are looking forward to vigorously defending Dr. Al-Arian.
Dr. Al-Arian and his family are very grateful for the tireless and outstanding work of the legal team and the 70 friends and supporters who attended the hearing, coming from as far as Florida, Chicago, and New York, in addition to the Washington DC area. Their continuous show of love and support are greatly appreciated. The Judge herself made note of this, not only based on the impressive attendance, but also the numerous letters she has received.
For the St. Petersburg Times’ coverage of the hearing click here. For the Washington Post’s article, click here.