June 17, 2004
Judge Voids Krugel Plea Agreement
Earl Krugel, a former leader of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), might face a longer than anticipated prison sentence, after a federal judge voided a previous plea agreement.
Krugel, 61, pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with the late Irv Rubin, JDL's national chairman, to bomb a Culver City mosque and the offices of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who is of Lebanese descent. Both men were arrested in December 2001, before the alleged plot was carried out.
In entering the guilty plea to two counts of the nine-count indictment, Krugel promised to cooperate fully with federal investigators as part of the deal.
He and his lawyer, Peter Morris, appeared Monday in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew, who was expected to pronounce a prison sentence of 10-16 years for Krugel and dismiss the remaining seven charges. Instead, Lew ordered a closed hearing to rule on a government motion, filed under seal, that Krugel had violated his plea agreement.
With Lew approving the motion, Krugel now faces a trial, set for Nov. 16, on the seven remaining counts of the indictment, while still being held to his earlier guilty pleas on the two counts.
Defense attorney Morris was outraged by the decision.
"This is a dark day for justice in America," he told The Journal. "Earl has provided complete cooperation to the government and clearly met his part of the bargain. The government got everything it wanted out of him and is now reneging on its part."
Under court rules, neither Morris nor U.S. Attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek were permitted to discuss details of Krugel's alleged lack of cooperation.
However, the Los Angeles Times reported in February that federal investigators were putting pressure on Krugel in hopes of getting information on the 1985 killing of Alex Odeh.
Odeh, then the Western regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, died after a bomb denoted when he opened the front door to his Santa Ana office. The FBI interrogated JDL leaders at the time but never identified a suspect, and the JDL has steadfastly denied any involvement. The Arab American community has continued its demands that the government solve the case.
Morris said he would now counsel his client to withdraw the guilty plea on the first two charges and stand trial on all nine counts at one time.
If convicted, Krugel would face a mandatory 40-year prison term, which, at his age, would probably amount to a life sentence.
Morris said that Krugel, the JDL's former West Coast coordinator, had no statement.
Earlier, Krugel's sister told The Journal that Rubin and Krugel had been entrapped by an FBI informant, who had infiltrated the JDL, and that the government went after the two men to prove its "even-handedness" to the Arab community.
Krugel, a dental technician, came from a working-class background, married late in life and has two adopted grandchildren from his wife's first marriage.
Rubin, who was arrested with Krugel, died in November 2002 in federal prison. Prison authorities said he committed suicide by slashing his throat and jumping over a railing, a finding contested by Rubin's family. --Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
UCI Muslim Student Sashes Draw Fire
UC Irvine Jewish student groups are protesting the Muslim Student Association's plans to wear green sashes with the word "Shehada" printed on them to this Sunday's graduation. Shehada, which is one of the five pillars of the Muslim faith that literally means, "to bear witness" and is the recitation, "there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." According to the Jewish groups, members of the terrorist group Hamas wear similar sashes and armbands.
Members of Anteaters for Israel, Hillel-Jewish Student Union, Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi and Jewish sorority Epsilon Phi, as well as members of StandWithUs and the American Jewish Congress have been sending protest letters to campus officials asking that the students not be allowed to wear the sashes, saying that the message on them incites anti-Semitism.
Representatives from the groups are also meeting with UC Irvine Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez on Thursday in the hope that he will ban the sashes.
"The administration told us there is nothing they could do, because of freedom of speech," said Merav Feren, president of Anteaters for Israel. "[The administration] aren't responsive to Jewish fears, so I am not expecting much of a response."
As of press time, university officials did not return calls seeking comment. -- Gaby Wenig, Staff Writer
Sharon Cleared of Bribery Charges
Israel's attorney general announced Tueday that there was not enough evidence to press charges against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on allegations of bribery.
Menachem Mazuz's decision to drop the long-running case against the prime minister came as no surprise, as media reports in recent weeks had predicted the decision.
"The evidence in this case does not meet the requirement of suggesting a reasonable chance of conviction -- not even close," Mazuz, in his first major public appearance since taking office in January, told reporters in Jerusalem.
Mazuz reportedly called the prime minister shortly before the news conference to inform him of the decision, and Sharon replied, "Thank you very much," sources said.
Sharon consistently had denied allegations that he took a bribe from real estate magnate David Appel, a Sharon friend who employed Sharon's son, Gilad, in the 1990s to serve as a adviser in his bid to win development rights for a lucrative Greek island resort. Appel has been charged with trying to secure the help of Sharon, then Israel's foreign minister, by paying Gilad Sharon hundreds of thousands of dollars to serve as his adviser on the project.
The so-called Greek Island Affair, which became public last year, compounded two other funding scandals dogging the prime minister and drew calls from the Israeli opposition for Sharon's resignation.
Sharon still faces the possibility of charges in another case, also involving his family. That case involves a $1.5 million loan Sharon's sons took from Cyril Kern, a family friend and businessman in South Africa, to cover illegal campaign contributions in Sharon's 1999 bid for the Likud Party leadership.
An indictment recommendation by Mazuz in the Appel case would have made Sharon the first sitting prime minister to face criminal charges in Israel's history. In March, then-state prosecutor Edna Arbel recommended that the prime minister be indicted.
But Mazuz was unequivocal in clearing Sharon.
"It should be remembered that for more than two years, the police listened in to Appel's two phone lines, recording thousands of conversations. Nonetheless, these wiretaps yielded no evidence, either direct or indirect, for substantiating the suspicion that Sharon was bribed by Appel," Mazuz said.
Mazuz also closed the case against Gilad Sharon. Sharon's political detractors cried foul after Mazuz's announcement.
"What does the attorney-general expect -- for the tainted money to be put on his desk so he can touch it himself?" asked Yossi Sarid, a lawmaker from the liberal Meretz party.
Sarid vowed to petition the High Court of Justice to overturn Mazuz's decision. -- Dan Baron, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Pollard Wins Appeal to Appeal
A U.S. appeals court is giving Jonathan Pollard a chance to appeal his life sentence. An American Jew convicted for selling U.S. intelligence secrets to Israel, Pollard will be allowed to present his case to a three-judge panel later this year. The panel will not decide whether Pollard's sentence was too harsh, but only if Pollard can take the next step in his legal fight. It also could grant a request from Pollard's lawyers to see partly classified documents used in his 1987 sentencing. -- JTA
Federal Funding for Synagogue Security
A bill to give federal funding for the security of synagogues and other high-risk, non-profit sites passed a congressional committee. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee added language Wednesday to the Faster and Smarter Funding for First Responders Act, earmarking up to $100 million from the Homeland Security Department appropriation to secure non-profit sites that face the threat of terrorism. The bill has been touted by the United Jewish Communities federation umbrella organization and several other Jewish groups that are concerned about rising security costs for Jewish sites. Americans United for Separation of Church and State came out against the legislation Wednesday, suggesting that it was unconstitutional to give money directly to houses of worship.
Jewish organizational leaders discussed their alert system for Jewish organizations and religious sites with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Ridge praised the community's pilot program, the Secure Community Alert Network, and discussed the community's security needs, those involved in the meeting said.
Ridge suggested that the Jewish community's plan for alerting members about a terrorist attack could be a model for other ethnic minorities. Department officials will continue to meet with Jewish leaders this week to discuss information sharing and coordination opportunities. Legislation to use homeland security funds to secure high-risk nonprofit organizations, such as synagogues and other Jewish sites, was not discussed, participants said. -- JTA
9/11 Panel: Al-Qaida Wanted To Attack During Sharon Visit
Al-Qaida considered attacking the White House during a visit by Ariel Sharon in the summer of 2001, the Sept. 11 commission said. Osama bin Laden's terrorist group planned the attack in Washington during a visit by the Israeli prime minister in order to draw a connection between U.S. policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks said in its final session Wednesday. -- JTA