U.S. wants Seda jailed to await sentence

The government wants Pete Seda jailed while awaiting his Sept. 27 sentencing on money-laundering and tax-cheat charges, saying the former Ashland peace activist is a flight risk who already has tasted life on the lam.

Federal prosecutors Friday filed a motion asking U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan to order the 53-year-old Seda be returned to custody. The filing came a day after Hogan denied Seda's motions to have his September convictions thrown out over myriad reasons, including alleged prosecutorial misconduct that Hogan denied.

There was no word Friday when Hogan planned to rule on the motion. Prosecutors in court filings said they informed Seda's defense team of their plans, and they expect the defense to file arguments against incarceration and to ask Hogan to hold a hearing.

Defense attorneys could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Seda initially was jailed as a flight risk after a jury convicted him but was freed in January while the post-conviction legal fight played out in court. Since then, Seda has been monitored by federal authorities and he wears a GPS bracelet as part of his release agreement.

In an interview Friday, U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton said he thought Seda's release in January was appropriate because the delays in the case were caused by the prosecution. With those issues now settled, prosecutors have re-instated their argument that Seda is a flight risk, Holton said.

"If anything, the reality of the conviction has sunk more deeply in for (Seda)," Holton said. "The factors for risk of flight are higher now."

Seda, who is also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty, has dual citizenship with the United States and Iran, and prosecutors in court papers argued he could gain a new passport at a consulate and flee to Iran, which has no extradition agreement with the United States.

Prosecutors also point out that Seda was an international fugitive for 21/2 years, moving amid Middle Eastern countries to skirt extradition while wanted on the indictment for which he was convicted.

He returned on his own in August 2007 to fight the charges.

Seda was convicted on the federal felony charges for helping smuggle $150,000 through his Ashland-based Al-Haramain chapter to Muslims fighting the Russian Army in Chechnya in 2000, then lying on the foundation's tax returns to conceal the crime.

Seda has never been labeled by the government as a supporter of terrorism. However, his Al-Haramain chapter and a codefendant in the case — a Saudi national named Soliman Al-Buthe — have been labeled supporters of terrorism and both are fighting that designation.

Seda faces as many as eight years in federal prison for his conviction if Hogan accepts federal prosecutors' assertions that his sentence should be enhanced because the crimes aided terrorists.

If Hogan rejects that argument, Seda could walk away from district court in Eugene a free man, with credit for his nearly seven months already served in jail before and after the trial possibly wiping out any more time behind bars.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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