US Attorney for Middle Tennessee Announces Indictment of Texas Man in Mosque Threat
US Attorney for Middle Tennessee, Jerry Martin At Islamic Center of Murfreesboro Press Conference June 21, 2012 Source: Daily News Journal
This morning I had a call from Pete Doughtie publisher of The Rutherford Reader about a news conference with federal authorities to be held at the controversial Islamic Center of Murfreesboro (ICM). My first thought was that perhaps the announcement might be related to the unsolved matter of vandalism; arson of construction equipment at the job site in August 2010. At that prior news conference special agents of both the ATF and FBI announced a reward of $20,000 for information leading to alleged persons of interest in the matter. However, it turned out to be a totally unrelated matter, although once again the vandalism of 2010 would be raised by participants in today’s new conference.
At today’s news conference US Attorney for Middle Tennessee, Jerry Martin was flanked by both FBI and ATF special agents, as well as Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold. Martin announced the handing down of two federal grand jury indictments against Javier Alan Correa, aged 24 of Corpus Christi, a Texas man. He was accused “with threatening to bomb [the ICM construction site] on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.”
U.S. Attorney Jerry E. Martin said in a news conference Correa called the Islamic Center on September 4, 2011, and left a profanity-laced threat with hate speech. He allegedly said "On September 11, 2011, there's going to be a bomb in the building."
"Today's indictment should send a message loud and clear: The Department of Justice will not tolerate violence or threat of violence against the Muslim community here in Murfreesboro," Martin said. "If you engage in this type of illegal conduct, we will come after you."
Correa has not been arrested, but Martin said they have reached out to his lawyer to ask him to surrender.
He faces one count of intentionally obstructing the free exercise of religion by threat of force and one count of using an instrument of interstate commerce to threaten to destroy a building by means of an explosive device.
Correa faces a maximum penalty of 20 years for count one of the indictment and 10 years for the second count, as well as a fine of up to $250,000 for each offense.
The Tennesseannoted this strong statement from Martin:
The Department of Justice, the FBI and our law enforcement partners’ intent to protect the rights afforded under the Constitution to all individuals, including the most basic right to exercise freedom of religious beliefs. The controversy and criminal activity surrounding the construction of this particular place of worship has impeded the ability of people to exercise that most basic right,” Martin said.
“We will continue to monitor the progress of construction and legal proceedings at the local level to insure these citizens are able to enjoy all basic liberties guaranteed under the Constitution.”
Watch this Daily News Journal news video of Martin’s press conference.
Martin noted in the news video that his office had filed an amicus brief in the first Rutherford County Chancery Court hearing in September 2010. We noted in an Iconoclast post that the Federal amicus brief was “premised on the logic and case law that Islam is a religion that meets the Constitution standards of Free Exercise under the First Amendment and that a mosque is a place of religious assembly for worship under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).” Martin also drew attention to his office and the USDOJ’s monitoring the recent rulings of Rutherford County Chancellor Corlew on June 1st and the 13th that could result in preventing the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy by the Rutherford County Building Department. A hearing on the issuance of a Writ of Mandamus is scheduled for July 2nd. The result of that hearing could be an order preventing the opening of the new ICM Mosque for the month long religious observances of Ramadan that begin on July 20th.
Martin introduced Aaron T. Ford, FBI special agent who commented on their investigations together with the Joint Terrorism Task Force into the evidence that led to today’s grand jury indictments. Andy Anderson, the ATF special agent reiterated that their investigation was continuing into the August 2010 vandalism occurrence and that there was still a $20,000 reward for any information leading to the identification of possible persons of interests. Clearly, the message was that the ATF and FBI have not concluded their investigation in the nearly two years since it occurred.
Liz Coker, citizen activist and former journalist was present and briefly interviewed. Watch the DNJ interview with Coker. She noted to reporters that Rutherford County was a peaceful community and that the federal indictments handed down today resulted from a threat that came from Texas and not the community. She noted that the Imam of the ICM, Sheik Osama Bahloul, held a similar post in Corpus Christi, Texas, when shots were fired through the door of the Islamic Center of South Texas during Ramadan in September 2007. That event also resulted in FBI investigations as noted in this Houston Chronicle report.
Coker also referred to Saleh Sbenaty an ICM board member and engineering professor at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) who is also a member of the controversial American Muslim Advisory Council in Tennessee. Sbenaty’s daughter Lema is President of the Muslim Student Association chapter at MTSU and has been active on social media with Syrian ex-pats and students in Syria engaged in the rebellion against the regime of Bashar Assad. In a MTSU Sidelines article earlier this year, she spoke of that involvement and her father’s leaving Syria after the 1982 Hama Massacre of Muslim Brotherhood suppiorters and civilians by Assad’s father Hafiz in 1982. She notes:
The rest of us are just Syrian kids who have never actually lived in Syria, but have the belief that what we have here can be attained somewhere else, no matter how imperfect what we have is"
She goes on to say, "The people who are conducting these protests and in the Arab Spring - these are conducted by kids, people our age. These are people who are not older than us, they are not more amazing than us, have not accomplished more than we have and theyre the ones who are changing the platform of an entire region..."
Coker also engaged a journalist from a local TV affiliate in discussion of the evidence of radicalism and support for Palestinian terrorist group Hamas by one of the ICM board members, Mosaad Rawash. His website and MySpace page had been examined by her and a County Commissioner, screen shots of which were translated by Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project. Rawash’s My Space page had been scrubbed of the information of his support for violent jihad against Israel. However, the information gleaned from the captured screen shots was submitted as evidence during the first Chancery Court hearing in October 2010 and opined as credible in the findings of Chancellor Robert E. Corlew, III. That information was included in an NER background investigation Power Point presentation published in October 2010. It recently re-surfaced in a FrontPageMagazinearticle by Eric Allen Bell re-published in The Rutherford Reader. Rawash had been suspended by the ICM board, traveled to his native Egypt and was reinstated on the board following an internal investigation by the ICM. The TV journalist suggested that such evidence constituted “hearsay” and was not aware of Chancellor Corlew’s findings in his summary of the first ICM hearing.
Today’s press conference pleased local Muslims in Murfreesboro. It was further evidence of the commitment by US Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez that the USDOJ has the back of Muslims in Murfreesboro and across America. Martin’s strong statement in today’s press conference reflects that commitment.
We wonder whether Martin held a similar press conference when evidence arose that home grown terrorist and Muslim convert Carlos Bledsoe or Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad attempted to firebomb the home of orthodox Rabbi Saul Strassberg in Nashville in 2009. That was just before Muhammad’s murderous attack at the Little Rock recruiting station that killed Army Private William “Andy” Long. According to Strassberg, federal agents told the rabbi to remain quiet while they continued their investigations. Watch this news video on that attempt. After all antisemitic hate crime incidents reported by the FBI tower over those for American Muslims. Yet how much public outcry has been raised by the USDOJ over antisemitic incidents like the one in Nashville? Jews are still the number one target of hate crimes in the US.
Prosecutors didn't discuss any evidence that the man in question actually traveled to Murfreesboro, or that he had any accomplices in Murfreesboro, so they're threatening him with 20 years and a $250,000 fine over what was essentially a prank call.
Plus, the timing seems designed to intimidate mosque opponents.