Seda could walk Wednesday if judge allows

Pete Seda could be freed from a Lane County jail cell as early as Wednesday while his attorneys move forward with arguments that the government's failure to disclose cash payments to the husband of a witness poisoned his trial on money-laundering and tax charges.

Or he could remain jailed as his defense team and federal prosecutors slug it out over new evidentiary issues raised about the government's actions.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan will hold a 1 p.m. hearing by telephone to consider arguments on whether the 53-year-old head of a defunct Islamic charity in Ashland should be released from jail.

The defense motion for his release came a day after Seda's attorney sought to have his conviction tossed out because the government failed to tell the defense team that the FBI paid $14,500 between 2004 and 2006 to the now-deceased husband of a key witness to be an informant against Seda and local Muslims.

Hogan could order the immediate release of Seda, who has been held in jail since his Sept. 9 conviction. Hogan also could rule against the motion or make no immediate ruling and instead take the matter under advisement.

In a separate filing, federal prosecutors state they will take no position on Seda's motion for immediate release. Yet Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Zusman reiterated prosecutors' assertion that Seda was a flight risk if released before sentencing — an argument Hogan sided with after Seda's conviction.

Seda was out of the country when he was indicted in 2005. He was an international fugitive in Middle East states with no extradition treaties with the United States until he surrendered in Portland in August 2007.

Seda, also known as Pirouz Sedaghaty, was convicted on two federal felony charges for using his Ashland Chapter of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation to smuggle $150,000 to Chechen rebels in 2000, then filing a false tax return to hide the transaction.

Seda was set to be sentenced Tuesday, with defense lawyers arguing for a sentence equal to time already served in jail. Prosecutors have sought an eight-year prison term by having Seda sentenced under terrorism-enhancement rules, even though Seda has never been designated a supporter of terrorism.

During Seda's trial, White City hair dresser Barbara Cabral was the only witness to say Seda solicited a donation from her to help the Chechens fight the Russians, court filings state.

The government failed to tell defense lawyers before the trial that Cabral's husband at the time, Richard Cabral, was paid cash by FBI agents investigating Seda and other local Muslims, court papers state.

Details of the cash payments were not turned over to the defense team until Jan. 6.

Defense lawyers now argue that by not disclosing the payments before the trial, they violated federal law and harmed their ability to counter Cabral's testimony during the trial.

It also constituted "outrageous government conduct" that should lead to at least a new trial, court records state.

In a separate filing, Zusman wrote that prosecutors disagree with the defense team's characterization of the potential weight of the undisclosed material and doubted whether having that material available to defense lawyers would have altered the trial's outcome.

Mark Freeman is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. He can be reached at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at

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