MARCH 06, 2009
A federal judge in Connecticut threw out the jury conviction of a U.S. Navy sailor who endangered his own crewmates by passing information about ship movements to terrorists, essentially cutting his prison sentence in half.
Last March a federal jury found Navy sailor Hassan Abu-Jihaad, a Muslim convert, guilty of providing material support to terrorists and disclosing classified national defense information. Abu-Jihaad was a signalman aboard the USS Benfold when he gave terrorists classified details of his military battle group and a drawing of the formation it would use to pass through a dangerous Persian Gulf strait.
In January Abu-Jihaad appealed the two convictions, which could have sent him to prison for 25 years. His attorneys argued that there wasn’t enough evidence for a jury to convict and that the government never proved Abu-Jihaad knew the information he was providing terrorists was dangerous.
Acknowledging that Abu-Jihaad received a “full, fair and impartial trial,” U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz never the less reversed the terrorism conviction this week though he upheld the conviction for illegally disclosing national defense information.
In his 71-page ruling, Judge Kravitz, appointed to the bench in 2003 by George W. Bush, said reasons “largely related to the language” of the federal law led him to reverse the terrorism verdict. He explained that to convict Abu-Jihaad of providing terrorists with material support, the jury had to find that personnel or physical assets were provided.
However, the judge wrote, there was no evidence that would allow the jury to conclude that Abu-Jihaad provided personnel or willfully caused the battle group document to be placed on a computer floppy disc, which could be considered a physical asset.
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