Zuckerman Spaeder partner Jack Fernandez says federal prosecutor Gordon Kromberg has an “apparent bias” against Muslims.
In an affidavit (page 49) filed last year, Fernandez alleged that Kromberg made anti-Muslim comments in connection with the case of former University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian.
Fernandez is Al-Arian’s Tampa, Florida-based attorney.
Al-Arian, now in prison at a federal medical facility in Butner, North Carolina, is on the 39th day of a hunger strike.
In 2005, Al-Arian was acquitted on eight counts and the jury deadlocked on the remaining nine counts of aiding terrorists.
In April 2006, he pled guilty to one count of providing non-violent services to people associated with the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
On May 1, 2006, he was sentenced to 57 months in prison including time served.
He is due to be released next month.
As part of the plea deal, the government agreed to deport him after he served his time in prison.
But Al-Arian says that Kromberg reneged on the deal.
Kromberg demanded that Al-Arian testify before a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia in a separate case.
On January 22, 2007, Al-Arian refused to testify and was found in civil contempt by U.S. District Judge Gerald Lee.
Al-Arian has been on a hunger strike ever since.
In an affidavit filed in federal court in Tampa last year, Fernandez related conversations he had with Kromberg in the fall of 2006.
Fernandez told Kromberg that he feared that his client was being called before the grand jury as a “perjury or a contempt trap.”
Kromberg said he wanted to transfer Al-Arian to Virginia to testify sometime in October.
Fernandez asked if the transfer could be delayed until after the end of Ramadan after October 23.
According to Fernandez, in response to the request, Kromberg became agitated and said “They can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury. All they can’t do is eat before sunset.”
“I took ‘they’ to mean Muslims,” Fernandez said.
According to the affidavit, Kromberg said he believed Al-Arian’s request to be “all part of the attempted Islamization of the American Justice System” and he said that he was not going to put off Dr. Al-Arian’s testimony before the grand jury “just to assist in the Islamization of America.”
Fernandez says he then terminated the conversation and called the U.S. Attorney’s office in Tampa to “express my concern with AUSA Kromberg’s motivation and apparent bias against Muslims.”
Later that day (September 18, 2006), Fernandez called Kromberg “to express to him my belief that comments such as the kind made earlier in the day called into question his ability to conduct an objective investigation of Dr. Al-Arian or his former associates or acquaintances.”
Two days later, Fernandez called Kromberg “to reiterate my feeling that, given his sentiment about the Islamic faith and its adherents. . .I had serious concerns with his ability to be objective in this matter, and asked Kromberg to recuse himself.”
Fernandez says he made the call on a speakerphone in the presence of Zuckerman Spaeder attorney Lee Fugate and Al-Arian’s former attorney, Linda Moreno, and informed Kromberg of their presence.
“We can do this the hard way or the easy way,” Kromberg responded, according to the affidavit.
Kromberg said federal law prohibits him from commenting on the matter.
But Kromberg’s boss, U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg, said that Kromberg “is a thorough, thoughtful, and conscientious prosecutor.”
“He is also a complete professional,” Rosenberg said. “The notion that he is biased is, quite frankly, absurd.”
Amnesty International doesn’t think it is absurd.
Last month, in a letter to Rosenberg’s boss, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Amnesty’s Susan Lee complained about the “unacceptably harsh and punitive” treatment of Al-Arian in prison.
“We are disturbed too by reports that the prosecutor leading the grand jury case in Virginia expressed anti-Islamic sentiments,” Lee wrote. “. . .This raises further concern as to whether these proceedings are being taken to punish him for his political profile rather than for legitimate purposes.”
Kromberg refused Fernandez’s request to recuse himself.
When asked why no motion was made to force Kromberg to recuse himself, Fernandez said that that would be up to Al-Arian’s Virginia attorney, John Keats.
Keats said no motion to recuse has been filed and he had no plans to file one.
Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila Al-Arian, wants the Justice Department to live by its promise and release her father.
“Given [Kromberg’s] racist statements against Arabs and Muslims and his abuse of power, it is clear to me that he is not fit to serve in this case,” she said. “He’s a rogue federal prosecutor abusing his power. He wants to prolong my father’s imprisonment. We’re hoping the Justice Department keeps its promise and releases my father next month. That was the promise made in the plea agreement.”
In November 2004, the Washington Post reported on a separate run-in Kromberg had with another lawyer.
That lawyer, Salim Ali, requested that federal officials return his client, a Falls Church, Virginia man, from Saudi Arabia to the United States, so as “to avoid the torture that goes on in Saudi Arabia.”
According to Ali, Kromberg “smirked and stated that ‘He’s no good for us here, he has no fingernails left.'”
Corporate Crime Reporter is located in Washington, DC. They can be reached through their website.