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November 25, 2008 1:20 PM

Jones Day Lawyer Loses in Landmark Terror Verdict

Posted by Brian Baxter

A federal jury in Dallas convicted five individual defendants on charges the engaged in a conspiracy to help funnel at least $12.4 million to Palestinian militant group Hamas through a Richardson, Texas-based Muslim charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

The verdict came after eight days of deliberations and a 42-day trial, reports sibling publication Texas Lawyer. The five defendants were indicted in 2004 but a previous trial ended in a mistrial and hung jury in October 2007.

John Cline, a San Francisco-based Jones Day litigation partner, represented former Holy Land chairman Ghassan Elashi in both trials. Nancy Hollander, John Boyd, and Theresa Duncan of Albuquerque's Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg & Ives represented ex-Holy Land chief executive Shukri Abu-Baker.

Holy Land was the largest Muslim charity in the U.S. until it was shut down in December 2001 when the Treasury Department seized the foundation's assets. (Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld originally served as Holy Land's counsel, but ended its representation after the government took action against the foundation.)

In the retrial, lawyers for the charity and individual defendants insisted that the group's work was humanitarian. But prosecutors claimed Holy Land's activites supported Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, in spreading its ideology and recruiting supporters.

The jury, which found the defendants and Holy Land guilty on all 36 charges, evidently agreed. (Some defendants now must forfeit $12.4 million in property to the federal government over their convictions on money laundering charges.)

According to Texas Lawyer, the verdict led some defense lawyers--most of which have taken the case on a "de facto" pro bono basis--to cry foul.

"This was a political prosecution," says Greg Westfall of Fort Worth's Westfall, Platt & Cutrer, a lawyer for former Holy Land representative Abdulrahman Odeh. "The government put up a fight, but it wasn't a good fight."

But U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Richard Roper, a Bush era appointee expected to leave office in the coming weeks, had a somewhat different perspective.

"This is a great day in the United States," Roper told the paper. "We will not tolerate those who fund terrorism."

The case was prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Jim Jacks, Elizabeth Shapiro, Barry Jonas, and Nathan Garrett.

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