PORTLAND, Ore. – Federal prosecutors acknowleged that the government blundered in the prosecution of an Oregon man convicted of helping to smuggle money through an Islamic charity, but said Friday that the errors weren't serious enough for a new trial.
Court documents filed late Friday contain the government's first accounting for its failure to tell defense lawyers for Pete Seda that the FBI paid a Southern Oregon man for information and discussed paying the informant's wife, who was a witness against Seda.
U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton and three of his assistants said prosecutors and investigators didn't deliberately withhold information helpful to the defense. Their filing describes numerous mistakes, including communication failures within a team that worked the case for the better part of a decade.
Seda, born in Iran, is a U.S. citizen convicted in September of tax fraud and conspiracy. He was accused of helping to smuggle $150,000 out of the country 11 years ago through the arm of the Al-Haramain charity he operated in Ashland.
The government, which declared the charity a terrorist organization, said the money was meant for Muslims fighting the Russians in Chechnya.
Seda was headed for a sentencing hearing until the government disclosed in December it had failed to turn over information about Richard and Barbara Cabral, who informed on him to the FBI.
Judge Michael Hogan is considering a call for a new trial and has freed Seda in the meantime.
After the trial, the government disclosed that the FBI paid Richard Cabral three times, totaling $14,500, with one payment made in the presence of his wife.
Richard Cabral died before the trial, but Barbara Cabral testified.
The government said Friday that FBI Agent David Carroll, who had worked with Barbara Cabral for years, "made a passing comment to Cabral before trial to the effect that he would try to do 'something' for her after trial."
A month after the trial, Holton's filing said, Carroll called her to tell her he would seek $7,500 for her. In December, he proposed the payment to Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani, which led Holton to turn down the payment and order that the defense be told about the financial dealings with the couple.
Seda's defense lawyers have called her testimony about Seda's intent to raise money for the mujahideen crucial in the jury's decision, and the information about the payments would have allowed them to impeach it.
The prosecution said Friday her testimony was secondary and that even defense lawyers didn't pay it much heed in their closing arguments.
Defense lawyers didn't respond immediately to calls for comment.
AP reporter Nigel Duara in Portland contributed.
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