HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- While a Madison County judge tries to decide on bond for a Huntsville terrorism suspect, the two sides in the case have sharply different views about the correct course.
Aziz Sayyed was arrested June 15 and has been held without bond since that date.
Madison County Assistant District Attorney Jay Town, who has been nominated by President Trump to become the next U.S. Attorney for North Alabama, told the court Tuesday Sayyed's case was unlike any other faced by an Alabama court.
Town argued that while the Alabama Constitution guarantees the right to bond in all but capital murder cases, Sayyed’s alleged pledge of allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS means he remains a danger to the public if he were released.
Town argued the constitution also assures citizens of the right to life and liberty and letting Sayyed out on bond would endanger the public. He told the court it could deny Sayyed bond in the interests of balancing Sayyed’s liberty against public safety.
Defense attorney Bruce Gardner called Town’s argument a perverse reading of the law. Sayyed is charged with a Class C felony count of Soliciting/Providing Support for an Act of Terrorism in the Second Degree.
Investigators claimed in a court filing that Sayyed’s charges stem from his “procurement” of “materials for the manufacturing of explosive devices to be used against the United States, state of Alabama, and in furtherance of Terrorism.”
But Gardner disputed the seriousness of the charge against Sayyed, noting another Class C felony is writing a bad check for over $2,500.
“It’s very clear that Article 1, Section 16 of the Constitution of Alabama guarantees the right to bond in all but capital cases,” Gardner said. “So the prosecutor really misstated, grossly misstated the rule of law that applies there.”
Town’s co-counsel Tim Gann, Chief Trial Attorney in the Madison County District Attorney’s office, said state courts haven’t seen a similar case.
“Although the law says, as it states right now, he is required to have a bond, I don’ think the law anticipated a situation like this when you’re dealing with a domestic terrorist,” Gann said.
Gardner said the case against Sayyed is “fuzzy” and rests largely on recordings of conversations Sayyed had with FBI informants.
Prosecutors contend Sayyed not only talked about building a TATP explosive device similar to the one used in Manchester, England that killed 22 people, he bought all the necessary the over-counter-chemicals needed to build such a device.
But Gardner argues the talk is overblown, and what the case shows is Sayyed talked about explosives and purchased some materials, but didn’t open them.
During Tuesday’s preliminary hearing a police witness testified Sayyed allegedly told an associate that he could build the explosive device in six hours and he hoped to strike a non-civilian target, like a police station or military location, the week of June 12.
Gardner also challenged the claim that Sayyed pledged allegiance to ISIS. He said Sayyed watched some ISIS videos, available on the Internet.
“When I got the cross-examination I figure pledging allegiance means I hereby renounce the United States and I’m now a member of ISIS,” Gardner said. “Nothing like that happened at all.”
Prosecutors asked Madison County District Judge Schuyler Richardson to consider a $150,000 cash bond for Sayyed, if the judge was unwilling to hold him without bond.
The defense said it is willing to accept electronic monitoring and family supervision of Sayyed, if the court were to grant bond.
Gann was asked if the public would be in danger if Sayyed was released on bond. He said law enforcement officials would do everything they can to keep the public safe, including insisting on bond conditions.
“It would allow us to monitor him, to keep him in one place and allow us to make sure he is at least at home, and not out running free,” Gann said.