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Seda prison term set to begin in January

Pete Seda will have nearly two months of additional freedom before he begins his 33-month prison term on tax evasion and conspiracy convictions but will forfeit nearly $20,000 in bail money to help cover the costs of his publicly funded defense, court records show.

U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan this week wrapped up the case against the former Ashland peace activist and his defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation after more than 6Â1/2; years and 601 court filings.

Court papers filed Wednesday show that Hogan has ordered Seda to report to federal prison in Sheridan by Jan. 23.

The delay will give his defense team more time to file appeals of his September 2010 conviction and a request to keep Seda out of jail during his appeals, which could take longer than his prison term.

Filings this week also include an agreement between prosecutors and Seda's defense team that Seda will reimburse the government $19,235 from his bail money once that money is released.

That money was held in one of three "lawyer trust accounts" totalling more than $57,235. Prosecutors sought to have Seda contribute as much as legally possible to his defense.

The forfeited money was in a trust account of defense attorney Larry Matasar, a Portland attorney who is part of Seda's defense team, documents show.

Two other accounts will not be tapped for Seda's defense charges.

One of those accounts containing $23,000 was held by Lynne Bernabei, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who represented Seda's defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation in a recently failed attempt to get the charity's terrorism designation lifted. That money belonged to the Qur'an Foundation and was not available to Seda, records show.

Seda also declared that Ashland attorney and friend David Berger held a trust account for Seda of about $15,000.

The accounts were detailed in separate sworn court documents Seda filed in October 2007 just before and after receiving a federal public defender. Hogan ordered those accounts frozen at that time for potential repayment to the government to cover part of his defense.

A jury last year convicted Seda on tax-evasion and conspiracy charges for using of his defunct Islamic 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, Hogan ruled they failed to make that connection. Had that connection been made, Seda could have received as much as eight years in prison under federal terrorism sentencing guidelines.

When Hogan sentenced Seda on Sept. 27, Hogan initially gave him two months to report to the federal correctional facility in Sheridan. That 60-day window was set to expire next week.

A federal grand jury indicted Seda in 2005 while he was out of the country. After more than 21/2 years as an international fugitive hiding in Middle Eastern countries with no extradition agreements with the United States, Seda returned in August 2007 and surrendered to face the charges.

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

Seda - AP