Friday, May 21, 2004

John Ashcroft’s Boys Screw Up – Again
Subtitle: Your rights are still going out the window...

Until further notice, Mr. Ashcroft, people are still innocent in this country until proven guilty….

Material Witness Law Allows Arrest Without Charges

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — After FBI agents showed up at his office door, Brandon Mayfield went immediately to jail without being charged with a crime.

It did not matter that Mayfield is an attorney and knows his legal rights, because some of the most important rights did not apply.

Mayfield was taken into custody under a 20-year-old federal law that prosecutors have used extensively to question potential terror suspects since the attacks in September 2001.

Under the so-called "material witness" law enacted in 1984, prosecutors may seek an arrest warrant if the grand jury testimony of a witness is considered "material" to a criminal case.

A judge must approve the warrant and the witness is entitled to an attorney, but he or she can be held indefinitely until a judge decides on release.

Mayfield was arrested after his fingerprints appeared to be a partial match for prints found on a plastic bag near the site of the March 11 terrorist bombings in Spain that killed 191 people and injured another 2,000.

But Mayfield was released Thursday after Spanish authorities determined the fingerprints belonged to a suspect from Algeria.

"It goes to show that it's subject to abuse by overzealous prosecutors who don't have enough evidence to bring formal charges, but use the statute to jail people who they have simply a suspicion about," said Robert Precht, a University of Michigan law professor and former federal defense attorney in the 1994 World Trade Center bombing.

Mayfield, a Kansas native who converted to Islam, attends a Beaverton mosque and had once represented a Muslim man in a child custody case. His former client, Jeffrey Battle, later was sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to charges of conspiring to wage war against the United States by helping al-Qaida and the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan..

…Attorney General John Ashcroft has pushed the material witness law to its limits under the Bush administration. "It's hard to imagine the material witness statute would be used in this fashion without the express authorization of John Ashcroft," Precht said. (Robert Precht, is a University of Michigan law professor and former federal defense attorney in the 1994 World Trade Center bombing).

Michael Greenberger, a former senior Justice Department official …called the Mayfield arrest a "huge embarrassment" but he doubted it would change Bush administration policy."I'm fearful that the Justice Department has no capacity for learning — this is one in a long line of mistaken detentions," Greenberger said.

The Material Witness Law, like its big sister the Patriot Act, needs radical surgery so that our justice system doesn’t become more like a 3rd world dictatorship under Mr. Ashcroft. Mayfield was not getting out of jail anytime soon until Ashcroft & Co. were forced to let him go after the Spanish government finally said yesterday that it was not his fingerprint at the scene. The U. S. government is still pretending like they have a case. They don’t. A question Mr. Ashcroft: how did Mayfield’s supposed fingerprint get identified so quickly after the attacks all the way over in Spain? He wasn’t on one of your lists was he? You know, like the lists they have at airports now?

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