U.S. judge delays New Mexico compound
hearings to let defense prepare
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[September 06, 2018]
By Andrew Hay
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Reuters) - A U.S. judge
on Wednesday postponed hearings for five suspects from a ramshackle New
Mexico compound where a toddler's body was found in order to give
federal attorneys more time to prepare their defense in the
U.S. Magistrate Judge Kirtan Khalsa in Albuquerque, New Mexico delayed
the detention and preliminary hearings until Sept. 12. The defendants
will remain in custody until then.
The five defendants were appointed federal lawyers after their first
appearance in U.S. court on Tuesday on new firearms-related charges
brought by the FBI.
"We need time to do our own investigation, we need time to get up to
speed," Carey Bhalla, an attorney representing defendant Hujrah Wahhaj,
Federal prosecutor George Kraehe declined to comment.
The five suspects, all black Muslims, were first arrested after police
said they found 11 children without food or clean water and a cache of
firearms at their desert compound in an Aug. 3 raid. Three days later
police unearthed the body of a three-year-old at the settlement located
near the Colorado state line.
The five had initially faced child abuse charges in state court, but
that case unraveled last week as state prosecutors missed a procedural
deadline and charges were dismissed, allowing three suspects to be
The FBI moved in on Friday and arrested all five in Taos, about 95 miles
(153 km) north of Albuquerque.
[to top of second column]
Defendants Jany Leveille (L to R) and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj talk to
defense lawyer Kelly Golightley during a hearing in Taos District
Court in Taos County, New Mexico, U.S., August 29, 2018. Eddie
Moore/Pool via REUTERS
Jany Leveille, a Haitian national described as the spiritual leader
of the group, is charged with being in the United States illegally
and in unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.
The other defendants Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40; Hujrah Wahhaj, 37;
Subhanah Wahhaj, 35; and Lucas Morton, 40, are charged with aiding
and conspiring with Leveille.
Bhalla said she agreed for "the most part" with comments by state
defense lawyers that the five were being discriminated against for
being black and Muslim and had acted within their rights of
religious freedom and firearm ownership.
In an affidavit, the FBI said a teenage boy among the group told
agents Ibn Wahhaj was "trying to put an army together" to conduct
State prosecutors say they will bring charges against Leveille and
her partner Siraj Ibn Wahhaj related to the toddler's death, and
refile child abuse charges against the other defendants, at a Sept.
27 grand jury.
(Reporting by Andrew Hay; editing by Bill Tarrant, G Crosse)
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