The judge who ordered the release on a $20,000 signature bond of five Muslim defendants accused of abusing children and training them to shoot schoolteachers charged prosecutors who wanted the defendants to remain in custody were discriminating based on religion.
Judge Sarah Backus, an elected Democrat, pointed out in a Taos, New Mexico, court Monday, according to a transcript, that the five adults seized in a raid on a makeshift compound in northern New Mexico “are apparently of the Muslim faith.”
She said the state, asking the court to find that the defendants posed a threat to the community and were an escape risk, “apparently expected the court to take the individuals’ faith into account in making such a determination.”
“The Court has never been asked to take any other person’s faith into account in making a determination of dangerousness,” Backus said. “The Court is not aware of any law that allows the Court to take a person’s faith into consideration in making a dangerousness determination.”
Meanwhile, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said one of the defendants, Jany Leveille, 35, an illegal immigrant from Haiti, has been taken into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Leveille is said to be the “Islamic wife” of the compound’s leader, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj.
She is regarded by the group as a messianic figure, said Ryan Mauro, a counter-terrorism expert for the Clarion Project, who described the group as a “cult.”
Wahhaj, who already has proven himself to be a flight risk, is accused of kidnapping his 3-year-old son in December in Georgia from his legal wife. He was a fugitive until his arrest Aug. 3 with the four other adults at the compound, where 11 children were found to be starving. Medical examiners determined remains found at the site near the Colorado border were of the boy.
Authorities believe the child died when Wahhaj tried to perform an exorcism. The father then tried to “resurrect” him as “Jesus” to lead their school attacks, they said.
Mauro explained in an interview with Fox News that, according to his law-enforcement sources, the group believed the boy would come back to life and tell them which targets to hit.
Wahhaj is the son of Brooklyn imam Siraj Wahhaj, who was named as a possible co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and, as WND has reported, is on record urging a violent overthrow of the “filthy” U.S. government, assisted by jihad warriors armed with Uzis. In a video posted Thursday on Facebook, the imam insisted his son’s problems with the law amounted to a domestic conflict that has nothing to do with Islam.
A spokesman for the sheriff’s office, Steve Fuhlendorf, told TheBlaze the detainees are still in custody because they haven’t met the conditions to be released.
Backus was sharply criticized, including by New Mexico Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, for releasing the defendants. New Mexico state court officials said Tuesday the judge has received threats of violence through social media, emails and telephone calls, the Associated Press reported. One telephone caller threatened to slit her throat.
FoxNews.com noted that last month Backus set a $10,000 bond for Rafael Orozco, a 24-year-old Taos man accused of battering his girlfriend, his newborn child and a health-care worker at a hospital, where he caused a lockdown. Backus, who has lived in Taos since 1994, previously served as a deputy public defender and deputy attorney general in San Francisco.
She argued in court Monday that while she was concerned by “troubling facts” in the case, prosecutors failed to convince her the five suspects posed specific threats to the community.
Wahhaj likely will remain in custody pending a separate arrest warrant in Georgia for the alleged abduction of his son.
Prosecutors say Wahhaj sent a letter to his brother asking him to “join him and become a martyr.” And they allege he provided some of the children with firearms training such as “speed loading” guns and firing while in motion.
Evangelist Franklin Graham was one of the critics of the judge’s release of the defendants on a signature bond, which does not require them to post any funds, calling the decision “crazy” in a tweet Tuesday.
“Can you believe Judge Sarah Backus let these dangerous Muslim extremists out of jail already?” he wrote. “They were training children how to execute school shootings — and she lets them out with an ankle bracelet. One child is already dead. That sounds crazy to me.”