|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Seda ordered to prison to begin sentence

    Appeals court sides with lower court that the former Ashland activist is a flight risk
  • Former Ashland activist Pete Seda must report next week to a federal prison in Colorado to begin serving a 33-month sentence while appealing his money laundering and tax-fraud convictions.
    • email print
      Comment
  • Former Ashland activist Pete Seda must report next week to a federal prison in Colorado to begin serving a 33-month sentence while appealing his money laundering and tax-fraud convictions.
    A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel has ruled that U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan did not err when he deemed the 54-year-old Seda a flight risk. Before returning to stand trial in 2010, Seda spent 21/2; years as an international fugitive living in Middle East countries without extradition agreements with the United States.
    After the ruling was filed late Friday, Hogan immediately ordered Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty, to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Englewood, Colo., no later than 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29.
    Since his Sept. 27 sentencing in Eugene, Seda has remained free pending the appeal. Court filings stated that he has been living with his wife in Portland while wearing a GPS tracking device and under supervision by a federal court officer who court filings say did not consider Seda a flight risk.
    Seda's defense team has argued that he could serve his entire sentence and be released before the appeals court even makes a decision on whether to order a new trial.
    Defense attorneys had argued that Seda was an excellent candidate to remain free on bail pending his appeals in part because he had a spotless record while on bail.
    Federal prosecutors, however, raised Seda's past fugitive status and noted that he previously had United States and Iranian passports containing conflicting names, pictures and birth dates. They also argued that Seda, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, could take advantage of his dual U.S.-Iranian citizenship to get a new Iranian passport and flee the country.
    Lead defense attorney Steven Wax did not return telephone calls Wednesday seeking comment.
    Wax also has asked for federal Bureau of Prisons officials to assign Seda to the federal prison at Sheridan to be closer to his family, but there was no word Wednesday whether that request would be granted.
    A jury in September 2010 convicted Seda on tax-evasion and conspiracy charges for using his defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation charity to help smuggle $150,000 from Ashland to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and signing a fraudulent tax return to cover it up.
    Though prosecutors argued Seda's motive was to fund Islamic terrorists in Chechnya and it was a key component of the entire trial, Hogan ruled they failed to prove that connection.
    Had that connection been made, Seda could have received as much as eight years in prison under federal terrorism sentencing guidelines.
    Seda had a plane ticket in hand and was ready to report as ordered to the Colorado prison Jan. 23 when Hogan granted Seda his freedom until the 9th Circuit ruled on Hogan's sentencing order, which a two-judge appeals panel did Friday.
    That appeal is separate from the appeal of his conviction based on myriad rulings Hogan made during and before Seda's September 2010 trial.
    Those include failure of the government to disclose before the trail that a prosecution witness was married to a paid government informant who has since died, court records show. Records also show the defense team will argue that Seda did not get a fair trial in part because prosecutors linked Seda to radical Muslim holy wars and Osama bin Laden, which invited jury prejudice against him.
    Another facet of the appeal involves Hogan's pretrial ruling that the government's warrantless wiretapping of Al-Haramain civil attorneys could not be brought up or even discussed in the case. Defense attorneys claim that ruling harmed Seda's defense and may have unearthed evidence of possible government misconduct leading to the FBI's 2004 raid on his Ashland home, which was also his Al-Haramain chapter headquarters, court reports show.
    Other issues raised by defense attorneys on appeal include suppression of evidence and an argument that the government overstated the almost $81,000 tax loss that Hogan added to Seda's sentence as restitution.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
Reader Reaction

      calendar