United States v. El-Mezain

Decision Date27 December 2011
Docket Number08–10774,Nos. 09–10560,08–10664,10–10590 and 10–10586.,s. 09–10560
Citation664 F.3d 467
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Mohammad EL–MEZAIN; Ghassan Elashi; Shukri Abu Baker; Mufid Abdulqader; Abdulrahman Odeh; Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, also known as HLF, Defendants–Appellants.United States of America, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Shukri Abu Baker; Mohammad El–Mezain; Ghassan Elashi; Mufid Abdulqader; Abdulrahman Odeh, Defendants–Appellants.United States of America, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Mohammad El–Mezain, Defendant–Appellant.United States of America, Plaintiff–Appellee–Cross–Appellant, v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, also known as HLF, Defendant–Appellant–Cross–Appellee.United States of America, Plaintiff, v. Shukri Abu Baker, Defendant,Nancy Hollander, Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Susan Cowger, Asst. U.S. Atty. (argued), Dallas, TX, Joseph Francis Palmer (argued), U.S. Dept. of Justice, Civ. Div. App. Staff, Washington, DC, for PlaintiffAppellee.

Joshua L. Dratel (argued), (Court–Appointed), Aaron J. Mysliwiec (Court–Appointed), Law Offices of Joshua L. Dratel, P.C., New York City, John D. Cline (argued), San Francisco, CA, Linda Moreno, Tampa, FL, Nancy Hollander (Court–Appointed), Theresa M. Duncan, Freedman, Boyd, Hollander, Goldberg, Ives & Duncan, P.A., Albuquerque, NM, Marlo Pfister Cadeddu (Court–Appointed), Dallas, TX, Gregory Burke Westfall (Court–Appointed), Arlington, TX, Ranjana Natarajan (argued), University of Texas School of Law, National Security Clinic, Austin, TX, for DefendantsAppellants.

J. Craig Jett, Burleson, Pate & Gibson, L.L.P., Dallas, TX, for American Friends of Service Committee, Atlantic Philanthropies, Carter Center, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Constitution Project, Council on Foundations, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Fund for Constitutional Government, Global Greengrants Fund, Grantmakers Without Borders, Grassroots International, Humanitarian Law Project, Islamic Relief U.S.A., Milt Lauenstein, Operation, U.S.A., Peace Appeal Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Samuel Rubin Foundation, Rutherford Institute, Tikva Grassroots Empowerment Fund, Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights, Amici Curiae.Jean–Jacques Cabou, Osborn Maledon, P.A., Phoenix, AZ, for National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Amicus Curiae.Michael E. Tigar (argued), Pittsboro, NC, K.C. Goodwin Maxwell, San Francisco, CA, for Appellant in No. 10–10586.Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Before KING, GARZA and GRAVES, Circuit Judges.

KING, Circuit Judge:

In this consolidated case, we address the appeals of five individuals and one corporate defendant convicted of conspiracy and substantive offenses for providing material aid and support to a designated terrorist organization. The terrorist organization at issue is Hamas, which in 1995 was named a Specially Designated Terrorist by Presidential Executive Order pursuant to authority granted by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq. Hamas was further designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, as contemplated by 18 U.S.C. § 2339B.

Although this case is related to terrorism, it does not involve charges of specific terrorist acts. Instead, it focuses on the defendants' financial support for terrorism and a terrorist ideology. The defendants were charged with aiding Hamas by raising funds through the corporate entity Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Texas-based, pro-Palestinian charity that the Government charged was created for the sole purpose of acting as a financing arm for Hamas. Although the charged conspiracy began in 1995 when Hamas was first designated as a terrorist organization, the defendants' connection to Hamas arose much earlier.

Established in the late 1980s, the Holy Land Foundation held itself out as the largest Muslim charitable organization in the United States. It raised millions of dollars over the course of its existence that were then funneled to Hamas through various charitable entities in the West Bank and Gaza. Although these entities performed some legitimate charitable functions, they were actually Hamas social institutions. By supporting such entities, the defendants facilitated Hamas's activity by furthering its popularity among Palestinians and by providing a funding resource. This, in turn, allowed Hamas to concentrate its efforts on violent activity.

The trial, which followed an earlier mistrial and lasted approximately six weeks, produced a massive record on appeal. The Government produced voluminous evidence obtained from covert surveillance, searches, and testimony showing a web of complex relationships connecting the defendants to Hamas and its various sub-groups. The financial link between the Holy Land Foundation and Hamas was established at the Foundation's genesis and continued until it was severed by the Government's intervention in 2001.

The defendants raise a host of issues challenging both their convictions and their sentences, including numerous errors that they claim deprived them of a fair trial. While no trial is perfect, this one included, we conclude from our review of the record, briefs, and oral argument, that the defendants were fairly convicted. For the reasons explained below, therefore, we AFFIRM the district court's judgments of conviction of the individual defendants. We DISMISS the appeal of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

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                ¦TABLE OF CONTENTS¦
                +-----------------+
                
                I.  Factual and Procedural Background                                   485
                II. Discussion                                                          490
                
    A.   Testimony of witnesses using pseudonyms                        490
                    B.   Hearsay evidence                                               494
                
         1.  Mohamed Shorbagi                                           494
                         2.  Documents seized from the Palestinian Authority            497
                         3.  Elbarasse and Ashqar documents                             501
                
    C.   Prejudicial evidence under Rule 403                            507
                    D.   Expert and lay opinion testimony                               511
                
         1.  John McBrien                                               511
                         2.  FBI Agents Lara Burns and Robert Miranda                   513
                         3.  Matthew Levitt                                             515
                         4.  Steven Simon                                               516
                
    E.   Letter rogatory                                                516
                    F.   Production of the defendants' intercepted statements           518
                    G.   Harmless and cumulative error                                  525
                
         1.  Harmless error                                             525
                
             a.  HLF's connection to Hamas                              527
                
             b.  Hamas's control of the zakat committees                531
                
         2.  Cumulative error                                           535
                
    H.   Jury charge                                                    535
                    I.   The search of HLF's offices                                    539
                    J.   Defendant Elashi's double jeopardy issue                       545
                
         1.  Time                                                       546
                         2.  Co-conspirators                                            547
                         3.  Statutory offenses                                         547
                         4.  Overt acts                                                 549
                         5.  Place                                                      550
                
    K.   Defendant El–Mezain's collateral estoppel issue                551
                
         1.  Collateral estoppel as a bar to the instant conviction     551
                         2.  Collateral estoppel and the exclusion of evidence          557
                
    L.   Mistrial and double jeopardy                                   559
                    M.   Challenge to FISA applications and intercepts                  563
                
         1.  Disclosure of FISA applications and orders                 563
                         2.  Suppression of FISA intercepts                             568
                
    N.   Sentencing                                                     570
                
         1.  Terrorism adjustment                                       570
                         2.  Value of laundered funds                                   571
                
    O.   Appeals of HLF and Nancy Hollander                             573
                
         1.  Background                                                 573
                         2.  HLF's appeal                                               576
                         3.  Hollander's appeal                                         578
                
                III. Conclusion                                                         579
                
I. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The instant prosecution began with an indictment of the defendants in 2004 that ended in a mistrial in 2007 but with a partial verdict. The defendants were re-tried and convicted in 2008. The indictment, as superseded, charged the defendants with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (i.e., Hamas), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B(a)(1) (Count 1); providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B(a)(1) (Counts 2–10); conspiracy to provide funds, goods, and services to a Specially Designated Terrorist (i.e., Hamas), in violation of 50 U.S.C. §§ 1701–1706 (Count 11); providing funds, goods, and services to a Specially Designated Terrorist, in violation of 50 U.S.C. §§ 1701–1706 (Counts 12–21); conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) (Count 22); substantive money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(2)(A) (Counts 23–32); forfeiture of assets; and certain tax offenses not relevant to this appeal.

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