Trial Day 1: Jury Selection
Trial has officially begun in the federal case against longtime Pennsylvania resident Mohammed Jabbateh in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). Jabbateh is accused in a four-count indictment of providing false information to U.S. immigration authorities on his application for asylum and later on his application for legal permanent residence in the United States by falsely denying his role as a high-ranking rebel commander during the first Liberian Civil War and crimes he allegedly committed in that position.
The first day consisted of jury selection. The twelve men and women selected will sit for the duration of the trial, hearing all evidence presented in the case, and will ultimately decide whether there is sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged. In a criminal trial such as this, the government bears the burden of proof, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The government has indicated that it intends to call more than a dozen witnesses, many who have traveled to the U.S. from Liberia, to testify about the defendant’s criminal activities during the first Liberian Civil War in the early 1990s. The trial is expected to last 3-4 weeks. At its conclusion, the jury will be asked to find the defendant either “guilty” or “not guilty” of each of the four counts charged.
If the defendant is convicted on all counts, he faces a total maximum penalty of 30 years of imprisonment, a $1,000,000 fine, not more than three years of supervised release and a $400 special assessment. To determine an appropriate sentence, the judge considers not only the statutory penalty but also the sentencing range suggested by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines manual. The Sentencing Guidelines take into account the unique circumstances of a defendant’s crime, the charges themselves, and a defendant’s criminal history to provide an advisory sentencing range tailored to the specifics of a particular case. The defendant’s presumptive Sentencing Guidelines imprisonment range is, as in almost all cases, far less than the statutory maximum penalties.
The Honorable Paul S. Diamond is presiding over this case. Judge Diamond was nominated to the bench in 2004 by former U.S. President George W. Bush. He graduated from Columbia University in 1974 and received his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1977. Before his judicial nomination, Judge Diamond served as a state prosecutor in Philadelphia for approximately six years and worked as an attorney in private practice for more than two decades. During trial, the judge’s role includes overseeing the trial’s progress, ruling on objections, deciding other legal questions as they arise, and advising the jury on issues of law.
Trial will continue on the second day with opening statements from the prosecutor and defense counsel, followed by the government’s first witnesses. Watch this space for daily updates and summaries of each day’s events.