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JFK Terror Plot Convictions Upheld, 2nd Cir Affirms

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

In 2007, Kareem Ibrahim joined a plot to blow up John F. Kennedy Airport ("JFK"), in New York, along with Abdul Kadir, Russell Defreitas and Abdel Nur, who were tried separately. Ibrahim's co-conspirators were convicted of terrorism-related counts, and the Second Circuit recently affirmed their convictions and sentences.

In 2011, Kareem Ibrahim was convicted five counts of terrorism-related offenses: (1) conspiracy to bomb a public transportation system; (2) conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosive; (3) conspiracy to attack aircraft and aircraft material; (4) conspiracy to destroy international airport facilities; and (5) conspiracy to attack a mass transportation facility.

On Friday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Kareem Ibrahim. The defendant raised six arguments on appeal, none of which the Second Circuit found convincing. Here's a breakdown of his arguments, and why they didn't work...

1. Defendant's Testimony Improperly Limited

Ibrahim argued that his testimony was improperly because only portions of an affidavit, that he submitted to in Trinidad, were admitted at trial, and because of sustained objections to his testimony.

The court of appeals found that the parts of the affidavit that were not introduced were not necessary to show context and also constituted "self-serving hearsay." The court also noted that though the objections were sustained, Ibrahim's testimony was not limited because he was able to answer "similar, rephrased questions."

2. Evidence Seized from Co-Conspirator's Home Improperly Admitted

The court of appeals found that evidence found at Kadir's home was properly admitted here because evidence documenting the link between co-conspirators is routinely admitted. Here, where the probative value outweighed any unfair prejudice, together with the proper limiting jury instructions, the court found the evidence was properly admitted.

3. Expert Testimony Improperly Admitted

During trial, Dr. Matthew Levitt, an expert on terrorist groups, testified to a previous terrorist plot where the conspirators went to Iran seeking funding for the plot. Here, the court found Dr. Levitt's testimony was not improper because "Levitt never testified to any inferences of his own about Ibrahim's mental state."

4. Insufficient Evidence to Sustain a Conviction

The test for sufficiency of the evidence requires all the evidence to be viewed in the light most favorable to the government, and in this case the court of appeals found that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find Ibrahim guilty of all counts of conspiracy.

5. Sentence is Procedurally and Substantively Unreasonable

Procedurally, the court of appeals found that the district court properly applied two sentence enhancements, and because they did not increase the statutory maximum, the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights were not violated. Substantively, given the nature of the crimes Ibrahim was convicted of, the life sentence was justified.

6. Empanelling an Anonymous Jury in Error

The court reiterated that because of the "extensive media coverage" and the nature of the case, it's reasonable that the court would conclude "that the jurors would be fearful if their identities were revealed to these defendants."

The Second Circuit affirmed the District Court's findings with such brief analysis that it makes it seem like a fairly simple case. Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ibrahim's attorney is considering appealing to the United States Supreme Court, but in the absence of complicated legal issues, it seems unlikely that the Supreme Court will review it.

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