Chapter 94: Nary A Word

Previous: The 'Lone Wolf'

Derrick Shareef
"How did that happen?" asked Sherlock Holmes. "Didn't evidence of Chrisman's role appear at the trial?"

"There was no trial, sir," replied Fred. "Shareef pled guilty. The government never had to present any evidence at any stage of the proceedings."

"And how did that happen?" asked Holmes.

"Legal magic," said Fred. "The choice of the mall as the target made the plot a federal offense, because most of the stores have out-of-state suppliers, and the federal government is charged with protecting interstate commerce. And the choice of grenades as weapons made the plot a very serious offense, because grenades are classified under federal law as weapons of mass destruction.

"It's a fair bet Chrisman knew these things; it's almost certain Shareef did not. And Shareef was charged with two counts: conspiracy to obtain and use a weapon of mass destruction, and conspiracy to commit arson in a facility used for interstate commerce.

"Shareef waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Had he not done so, the prosecution would have been compelled to give evidence showing why he should be charged.

"He also waived his bail hearing. Again, no evidence was required to hold him."

"Why?" asked Holmes. "Is this the signature of a public defender who is not very interested in defending his client?"

"That may be part of the reason, Mr. Holmes," replied Fred. "We certainly never learn the whole truth of these matters. But our 'justice' system has been transformed to 'hard on terror.' In other words, being charged with anything having to do with terrorism is, in many eyes, equivalent to being found guilty.

Hassan Abujihaad
"Thus, it is extremely unlikely that Shareef would have had his case dismissed after a preliminary hearing. It is almost unthinkable that any judge would have granted him bail, in any amount, not that he could have paid it. He couldn't even find a hundred dollars to buy four grenades and a handgun.

"So even a competent, serious attorney may have waived these two hearings. Shareef was found fit to stand trial, he pled not guilty to both charges, and a trial date was set. But before the trial could begin, Shareef accepted a plea-bargain. Withdrawing his not guilty pleas, he pled guilty to conspiracy to obtain a weapon of mass destruction, while the charge of arson against interstate commerce was dropped.

"Shareef later attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, but his motion was denied. So he was convicted on that basis, and sentenced to 35 years in prison."

"With nary a word uttered in his defence?" asked Holmes.

"Exactly, sir," said Fred. "And nary a trace of Chrisman, either. Except -- this is where it gets interesting, gentlemen. It appears Shareef was not Chrisman's primary target. He certainly wasn't Chrisman's only target. At the same time as he was entrapping Shareef in a bogus terror plot, Chrisman was also using Shareef to get to a man in Phoenix, Arizona, by the name of Hassan Abujihaad.

USS Benfold
"Abujihaad, originally Paul Hall, changed his name when he converted to Islam. His chosen name translates as 'Father of the Holy War.' Abujihaad was a sailor in the US Navy, and served as a signalman aboard the USS Benfold. In April of 2001, while aboard the Benfold, Abujihaad allegedly gave a pro-terrorist website secret information which could have been used in a terrorist attack against the convoy in which he was sailing.

"No attack came of it. In fact, nothing came of the information, until it was discovered when the operator of the website was arrested. Investigators suspected it had come from Abujihaad, but admitted they had no 'forensic footprint.' In other words, they had no proof of where the information had come from.

"Lacking the evidence they needed to put Abujihaad away, the FBI apparently set Chrisman on his trail via Shareef. Having established that Shareef knew Abujihaad, Chrisman encouraged Shareef to phone him. Neither man knew Chrisman was recording their conversations.

"Then Chrisman started speaking to Abujihaad himself, and recording these calls as well. Abujihaad sensed danger much more quickly than Shareef, and spoke to Chrisman in code, saying he feared their conversations were being monitored. If he only knew who was doing the monitoring!

"The evidence Chrisman collected against Abujihaad did not implicate the latter in any instance of leaking Navy intelligence, the crime for which he had been charged. Nonetheless, said evidence was used in Abujihaad's trial, which took place in New Haven, Connecticut.

FBI agent David G. Dillon
"On the morning of November 28, 2007, FBI agent David G. Dillon testified against Abujihaad in a preliminary hearing and played recordings made by Chrisman. On the same morning, 850 miles away, Derrick Shareef changed his plea to guilty on the weapons of mass destruction charge.

"That afternoon, and for most of the following day, William Chrisman testified against Abujihaad in New Haven. In his testimony, Chrisman disclosed information which would have been useful to Derrick Shareef for an entrapment defense, had Shareef not already changed his plea.

"Ironically, had the prosecution shown more restraint in pursuit of Abujihaad, Chrisman's role in the Shareef case might never have come to light. As it is, we we know about Chrisman only because of the press coverage of the Abujihaad trial.

"The story has seen no new developments for quite some time, but recently I caught a short news clip saying Derrick Shareef had been writing to an investigative reporter at a Chicago television station. In a series of letters, Shareef said he never really wanted to hurt anyone, just happened to know the wrong people, and is willing and anxious to talk.

"It might make for compelling programming, but no television station can simply send a camera crew to a federal prison and interview one of the inmates. Protocol must be followed. Clearances must be requested. In this instance, the request was denied, as the Federal Bureau of Prisons deemed such an interview a 'security risk.'"

"Clearly," said Holmes. "it would be very bad for 'security' if Derrick Shareef started talking about 'the wrong people' he just happened to know."