My kingdom for a GPS

Here’s a paradox if ever there was one: If Ahmed Hannan would simply stop fighting the charges against him and accept a guilty verdict handed down last year, he would be a free man. Instead, because he continues to maintain he’s innocent, the Moroccan immigrant remains behind bars.

Even odder, perhaps, is that the federal government is keeping him imprisoned even though it would be cheaper to release him and keep track of him with electronic surveillance.

Hannan was arrested in 2001 with two others for allegedly having phony identification documents and conspiring to aid terrorists; a fourth defendant was arrested the following year. After a nine-week trial, Hannan was acquitted last June of the terrorist charges but found guilty of the false-document charge; another defendant was acquitted of all counts. The remaining two were found guilty of having false documents and of aiding terrorists.

Sentencing guidelines say Hannan should serve no more than 14 months, and he’s been locked up for 31 months. So even if the conviction were upheld, he should be able to get out now.

So, why is Hannan still in the clink? The simple answer is that U.S. District Court Judge Gerald E. Rosen, who presided over the trial, must give the go-ahead before Hannan can be released on bond while a motion for a new trial is considered. The sticking point is that someone must cough up the $16 a day to pay for an electronic tether with a Global Positioning System tracking device, which Rosen insists Hannan must have before he can be freed.

“I’m trying to find a way to release him on bond, but he has no ties to the community,” says Rosen.

If the conviction stands, Hannan would be deported. That, apparently, makes him a flight risk in need of monitoring.

The judge has left it to Hannan’s attorney, James C. Thomas, to come up with a plan. Thomas, who can get Hannan into a halfway house, isn’t having a lot of luck with the GPS (which would keep tabs on his client wherever he went, as opposed to a less sophisticated electronic tether, which has more limited tracking capability). The trouble, he says, is the court doesn’t have the cash to pay for it and the U.S. Marshals Service refuses to pick up the tab.

Yet the Marshals Service is paying about $30 a day to keep Hannan in Wayne County Jail, which has a contract to hold federal felons, “but won’t underwrite the GPS because it is not in their budget and he would no longer be in their jurisdiction once let out of jail,” says Thomas.

The Marshals Service did not return News Hits’ calls.

The motion for a new trial is based in large part on the alleged wrongdoings of Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard G. Convertino, the lead federal prosecutor in the case.

It came to light late last year that Convertino, who is under investigation by the Justice Department, withheld evidence from the defense that may have changed the outcome of the trial. In December, Convertino said at a hearing before Rosen that he didn’t withhold the material, but rather, “it slipped through the cracks.” (Convertino is suing his superiors, including Attorney General John Ashcroft, for violating his privacy when they allegedly leaked to the press that he is under investigation.)

It may be months before Rosen rules on the motion for a new trial since the defense — get this — must receive security clearance from the feds before they can review the classified evidence in question. That process is under way.

In the meantime, Hannan awaits Rosen’s word.

Why doesn’t Hannan just accept the guilty verdict and get out, having served his time?

“Because he will be deported,” says Thomas. “My client wants to stay in the country.”

Judge Rosen and Thomas are to meet about the issue this week.

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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