Judge sets bond for Huntsville terrorism suspect at $250,000

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A Madison County judge has set a $250,000 cash-only bond for a Huntsville terrorism suspect, ending weeks of speculation on how the state would handle the case of Aziz Sayyed.

Sayyed has been in jail without bond since his June 15 arrest on a support for terrorism charge. It is a Class C felony that normally carries a bond range between $2,500 and $30,000.

Madison County District Judge Schuyler Richardson’s order rejected the prosecution’s call for no bond for Sayyed, but he set it at an even higher rate than the prosecution’s alternative suggestion of a $150,000 cash bond.

Prosecutors say Sayyed, 22, is a danger to the community. He was arrested after a months-long FBI investigation. The Huntsville Police Department reported Sayyed had purchased materials to make an explosive device. The FBI used informants with recording devices to build the case against Sayyed.

Sayyed’s attorney Bruce Gardner had argued for weeks that Sayyed was eligible for bond. He indicated Tuesday after a court hearing that Sayyed, a U.S. citizen who’d attended Calhoun Community College, was unlikely to be able to meet a high bond payment. Gardner said he'd pursue a habeas corpus petition he'd previously filed in Madison County Circuit Court, with an eye toward getting the bond amount reduced.

Gardner called the ruling a "mixed bag," noting that the defense had prevailed in its argument that Sayyed was entitled to bond, but he said the bond setting was far too high.

"Setting it at a quarter of a million dollars cash is just ridiculous," Gardner said.

But Tim Gann, chief trial attorney for the Madison County District Attorney's Office, said they were very pleased with court's ruling and said it showed the judge "understands the seriousness of this charge and the importance of protecting the public."

Gann said Sayyed is almost certainly unable to make the bond. If  he did, the prosecutor said,  the court-ordered monitoring of Sayyed would help keep the public safe.

"If he does make the bond, he will basically be on house arrest, a GPS monitor, also no access to the Internet, no visitors, no mobile devices, no communication really with anybody other than is on an approved list," Gann said.

Richardson said much of his decision stemmed from STAC agent Brad Snipes' testimony during Sayyed's preliminary hearing Tuesday.  He cited some of the testimony in his ruling.

"Officer Snipes testified that the defendant, with Miranda warnings, admitted that he had purchased all the precursors for 'TAPA' improvised explosive devices, with the intent to detonate the devices in law enforcement facilities in Madison County, Alabama during the week following the purchase of the precursors," Richardson wrote. "The defendant reportedly expected the devices to be powerful enough to level the facilities, causing significant loss of life. The defendant had in his possession a number of knives and a plywood panel which he reportedly explained that he was using to improve his knife-handling skills and planned to behead 'infidels.'"

The judge said he was concerned about public safety is Sayyed was released on bond.

Richardson wrote, "... the court finds that the defendant would pose a grave risk of harm to the public if released. The court further has concerns for the safety of officers who would be directed to monitor the defendant upon release."

Gann said the investigation is ongoing and is not close to being completed.

Gardner said he expects the case against Sayyed will eventually be moved into the federal court system.