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Threats To Harm U.S. Judge, Courthouse, Lead To Arrest

Authorities say 19 year old Queens Man Targeted Dearie

New York Law Journal
April 20, 2005
By Tom Perrotta

Federal authorities yesterday arrested a man who allegedly threatened to kill an Eastern District judge and bomb the courthouse in Brooklyn.

In several anonymous letters and telephone calls beginning late last month, 19 year old Wazir Khan of Queens said he would kill U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie for putting his brother in jail, authorities alleged.

The letters said Judge Dearie would be killed by the end of the month, “just like Atlanta” a reference to the recent shooting death of a state court judge by a man accused or rape.

Mr. Khan was seen crying in the courtroom yesterday before he was arraigned around noon before Magistrate Judge Cheryl L. Pollak who ordered him held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

There was no evidence that any of Mr. Khan’s relatives had been sentenced to prison by Judge Dearie. But Mr. Khan’s mother, Bibi Asgar, pleaded guilty to credit card fraud before Judge Dearie on Monday. She allegedly defrauded 10 or more victims out of more than $200,000 and faces between 5 and 6 years in prison.

Judge Dearie recused himself from Ms. Asgar’s case yesterday.

Mr. Khan’s attorney, Todd D. Greenberg of Addabbo & Greenberg, who also represents Ms. Asgar, said Mr. Khan denied the allegations and had no motive to harm the judge. Mr. Khan’s brother he said is just 2 years old.

Judge Dearie had treated Ms. Asgar fairly, Mr. Greenberg said, holding her under house arrest rather than prison.

Mr. Greenberg said he knew that the judge had recently received threats, but was “shocked” to learn about the allegations against Mr. Khan yesterday morning.

Authorities alleged that Mr. Khan also mailed a letter that included a white powder and threatened a “massacre” against judges in the courthouse if they did not dismiss all cases “between March 30 and December 25”.

Mr. Khan said he already had smuggled a gun inside the building and had placed a bomb on the sixth floor, where Judge Dearie’s courtroom is located, according to an affidavit from Elizabeth Rosato, an FBI agent investigating the case.

One of the letters also was addressed to Judge “Westine”, a possible reference to Eastern District Judge Jack B. Weinstein.

Threats to members of the bench will never be tolerated,” Eastern District U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said in a statement.

Ms. Mauskopf’s office said Mr. Khan could receive 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

During Mr. Khan’s arraignment, Mr. Greenberg asked for a change of venue due to the nature of the charges.

We all are very award of the appearance of conflicts”, Mr. Greenberg told Magistrate judge Pollak. “There may be witnesses even in this courtroom.”

Mr. Greenberg admitted that he had a conflict of his own, since he represented Mr. Khan’s mother. Magistrate Judge Pollak expressed concern about the situation but said Mr. Greenberg could represent Mr. Khan during the arraignment. She requested briefs on the application to change venue.

Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for Ms. Mauskopf, said the investigation into the threats is “ongoing”. He would not comment on whether Ms. Asgar is a target.

In a telephone interview yesterday evening, Mr. Greenberg said Ms. Asgar appeared before Magistrate Judge Pollak yesterday afternoon after Judge Dearie had recused himself.

The government, Mr. Greenberg said motioned to have Ms. Asgar detained, though it did not mention charges against her son. He said Magistrate Judge Pollak denied the request and continued Ms. Asgar’s house arrest.

The U.S. Attorney’s office could not be reached for comment on the latest developments.

Judge Dearie and court personnel have received threats since March 31. A metal detector was recently placed outside his courtroom for additional protection.

Following the murder of the Atlanta judge and the murder of the husband and mother of a federal judge in Chicago, security has been the subject of much concern at courthouses throughout the country.

In the Eastern District, complaints have arisen over the reassignment of U.S. marshals to Manhattan for Southern District judges Michael B. Mukasey and Kevin Thomas Duffy, who have faced terrorist threats.

Last month the Associated Press reported that Eastern District Chief Judge Edward R. Korman wrote to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales about the reassignment of deputy marshals, which the judge reportedly said had created a “dangerous and untenable” situation at the courthouse.