A state judge with a history of issuing low bail to violent offenders set a $20,000 bail for five defendants arrested at a remote New Mexico compound where authorities say children were being trained to shoot schoolteachers.
Judge Sarah Backus, an elected Democrat, argued in a Taos, New Mexico, court 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, FoxNews.com reported.
As WND reported, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the son of a notorious Brooklyn imam, was arrested Aug. 3 along with his wife, two sisters and a friend.
The elder Wahhaj, Siraj Wahhaj, 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.
Police say the five adults kept 11 starving children in a desert compound where they taught them to carry out school shootings. Wahhaj likely will remain in custody pending a separate arrest warrant in Georgia for the alleged abduction of his 3-year-old son, who has been missing since December. Remains found at the New Mexico compound are being examined by state medical examiners.
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.
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.
In court Monday, Backus said what she heard in court was “troubling, definitely,” with children living “in far from ideal circumstances and individuals who are living in a very unconventional way.”
Nevertheless, following her order, four of the defendants — Jany Leveille, Lucas Morton, Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahhaj — may be released on house arrest as early as Tuesday.
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.
New Mexico’s Republican governor, Susana Martinez, said Monday she “strongly disagreed” with Backus’ decision in the Wahhaj case.
“Unfortunately, it highlights how extreme the New Mexico Supreme Court has been in dictating pretrial release for all kinds of dangerous criminals,” the governor said in a statement.
The chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico, Ryan Cangiolosi, said Backus “has put people in danger and created the risk that they could flee and harm other children and communities as well.”
“If New Mexico Democratic Party leaders are serious about keeping our state safe, they should join me in denouncing Judge Backus and the incredible failure of leadership and judgment demonstrated by her terrible decision,” he said.
In court Monday, defense attorneys asserted prosecutors were trying unjustly to paint their clients as armed militants, FoxNews.com reported, arguing they made no aggressive effort to defend the compound.
They cited the Second Amendment and argued the rifles and handguns seized from the compound were common weapons that could be bought at retail stores.