A Brooklyn federal judge on Monday refused the odd request of an attorney representing a Muslim on terrorism charges to automatically keep all Jews out of the jury pool.
In tossing the demand, Judge Eric Vitaliano of the Brooklyn Federal Court said that rejecting a juror based on race or nationality is unconstitutional. But a Jewish group was perturbed at the concept of the request.
“The notion that Jews cannot seve in a jury and be objective is simply offensive to us,” Etzion Neuer of the Anti-Defamation League told CBS.
Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, a Muslim from Staten Island, absurdly tried to get off a no-fly list in 2010 by offering to FBI agents at a Hawaii airport that he once traveled to Pakistan to try joining the Taliban. He was then charged with lying to the federal government, since he had previously denied ever flying to Pakistan.
Shehadeh, 23, was originally placed on the list when several jihadist online sites that he ran ended up on the FBI’s radar. He composed poetry about the beauty of martyrdom and tried to enlist in the United States Army so he could go to Iraq and defect to al-Qaida.
But his attorney Frederick Cohn — who is Jewish himself — told the court on Monday that he didn’t believe his client could get a fair trial with Jews.
“I’m not wild about having Jews on the jury in this case,” Cohn said. “Given that there’s going to be inflammatory testimony about Jews and Zionism, I think it would be hard for Jews to cast aside any innate antipathy.
“The American Jewish community is heavily aligned with Israel and Zionism,” Cohn said. “Here is a guy who is a Muslim, who is opposed to those things.”
Prosecutors William Sarratt and James Loonam told Vitaliano that Judge Robert Levy, the magistrate charged with selecting a jury, who is also Jewish, would not look kindly on the request.
“I don’t think Judge Levy will be ready to violate the Constitution and exclude people from the jury on the basis of their religious beliefs,” Sarratt told the judge.
After Vitaliano rejected his plea, Cohn acknowledged to CBS that he made “a bad mistake.”
Jury selection will begin this week.