Federal investigators to be questioned by Seda lawyers

Pete Seda's lawyers will get their chance in open court to grill federal investigators in Seda's money-laundering and tax-evasion case over why they failed to provide evidence before the trial about a paid informant.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan late Thursday ordered FBI Special Agent David Carroll and Internal Revenue Service Special Agent Colleen Anderson to testify during a June 7 hearing in U.S. District Court in Eugene.

Hogan, however, declined defense lawyers' request to force two federal prosecutors to testify. Seda's defense is pushing to overturn the 53-year-old former Ashland peace activist's convictions for helping smuggle $150,000 through his Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation chapter to Muslims fighting the Russian Army in Chechnya in 2000.

The agents will be questioned in open court about their actions and what defense lawyers claim was their "outrageous conduct" over how they handled past and planned cash payments to Richard and Barbara Cabral in the case.

After Seda's September conviction on money-laundering and tax-cheat charges, Carroll asked U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton to approve a $7,500 payment for Medford resident Barbara Cabral, whose late husband, Richard Cabral, was paid $14,500 while providing information to the FBI about Seda and other Muslims in the area after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents.

Barbara Cabral testified at Seda's trial that she and her husband worshipped at Seda's prayer house in Ashland. She also testified that she went with him on a pilgrimage to Mecca, where Seda asked them to donate $400 in leftover travel money to buy food and blankets for mujahedeen fighting the Russian Army in Chechnya.

Holton refused the payment to Barbara Cabral in December and also ordered information about the payments divulged to defense attorneys, but that was well after Seda's conviction.

Defense lawyers argue that the payments would have bolstered their cross-examination of Cabral had the information been revealed to the jury during Seda's trial.

Carroll and Anderson already have filed sworn affidavits about their actions. In an earlier ruling, Hogan characterized the disclosure as inadvertent mistakes that would not have changed the outcome of the trial.

Seda's defense team last month filed motions asking Hogan to force Carroll and Anderson to face cross-examination on the stand about what defense attorneys claim were inconsistencies that point to "knowledge, intent, recklessness, and willful blindness of the prosecution team."

Seda remains free while the post-conviction legal fight continues. If his conviction stands, Seda faces as much as eight years in federal prison if Hogan accepts federal prosecutors' assertions that his sentence should be enhanced because the crimes aided terrorists.

Seda has never been labeled by the government as a supporter of terrorism. However, his Al-Haramain chapter and a co-defendant in the case — a Saudi national named Soliman Al-Buthe — have both been labeled supporters of terrorism and both are fighting that designation.

Mark Freeman is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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