Trial Day 12: Character Witnesses and the Defense Rests
Trial began on Thursday morning with a conference on proposed jury instructions.
The prosecution had no objections to Judge Anita B. Brody’s proposed jury charge, but did propose adding a clause to several of the instructions, so that they comported with the indictment. In the charges that Woewiyu had made a false statement about whether he had persecuted others, the prosecution sought to include the words “both directly and indirectly” in relation to the alleged persecution. The prosecution’s proposed changes would affect Counts Five, Nine, Fourteen, and Fifteen. For example, the instruction on Count Five would read:
In Count Five, the false statement alleged is that Woewiyu did not disclose that while he was a member of, among other organizations, the NPFL, he, both directly and indirectly, persecuted others because of their political opinions, and membership in a particular social group, including members of the Krahn and Mandingo tribes.
The prosecution stated that it proposed these additions with “the standard understanding that ‘and’ means ‘and/or.’” There was a discussion as to whether it would be better to include a “standard instruction” as to the meaning of “and” from the model jury instructions, or add “or” in multiple places in the charges. The defense indicated it might raise an objection to the inclusion of “or,” and the prosecution replied that the government has traditionally charged crimes using “and” to mean both words. Judge Brody instructed the prosecution to submit its proposed additions of “or” to her on Thursday afternoon, so that she could consider adding “or” throughout the charges.
The defense queried how the jury instruction regarding expert witnesses would be formulated, as the tentative text required naming each expert and the expert’s area of expertise. Judge Brody stated that she would modify the instruction to give a general explanation about experts, and that she would not include the experts’ names.
The defense proposed a supplemental instruction explaining the holding of an “honest belief” as a counter to the elements of perjury, and the government had no objections aside from language changes, to which the defense agreed. Judge Brody allowed the proposed addition.
In regard to the instructions about the defense’s witnesses, defense counsel stated that Woewiyu would not testify. Defense counsel also informed the Court that the defense’s character witnesses would give their opinions of Woewiyu’s honesty and law-abiding nature.
Judge Brody confirmed that the case involved no stipulated testimony. She stated that she would determine whether to include her proposed charge as to specific investigation techniques after closing statements are presented. The prosecution asked for the proposed instruction on motive to be included.
Judge Brody indicated that the parties should examine the proposed verdict sheet and then propose changes they thought necessary. The prosecution indicated it had submitted the prosecution’s proposed changes.
The defense requested that the jury be given written copies of their instructions in the jury room during deliberations.
The parties acknowledged the jury would also have a copy of the Indictment during their deliberations. The prosecution asked whether some things in the Indictment should be redacted, such as a discussion of cannibalism, because there was no evidence presented on it. Judge Brody said the redactions would be allowed if the defense agreed to them, but that otherwise the full Indictment would be given to the jury.
In the event that a party used the jury instructions in its closing argument, Judge Brody instructed the parties to also state during the closing argument that the judge would instruct the jury as to the law.
Defense Witness 1: Raymond Basso
The first witness for the defense, Raymond Basso, told the jury that he is an attorney in private practice in Philadelphia, and that the law firm he founded, Caprara and Basso, solely practices immigration law.
Basso identified Woewiyu in the courtroom, and stated that Woewiyu is Basso’s former client. Basso testified that they met in October 2008, and that Woewiyu sought his representation because Woewiyu had not received a response from the government after filing an an Application for Naturalization in 2006. Basso told the jury that he helped Woewiyu obtain a hearing set for January 2009, and that prior to that hearing, he met with Woewiyu twice.
Basso testified that it is his practice to meet with a client after the client receives an interview notice is received from U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (“USCIS”). He testified that when he met with Woewiyu to prepare for the interview, they looked at the Form N-400 that Woewiyu had filed in 2006. Woewiyu provided it to him, and they went over it together.
Basso testified that Woewiyu did not indicate that all his answers on the Form N-400 were correct. Basso stated that when they went over the Form N-400 together, they realized they would have to make amendments. Basso testified that he advised Woewiyu to prepare and gather documents relating to the amendments. Basso testified that Woewiyu was previously arrested, and Basso knew Woewiyu would have to obtain and present the records of his conviction, “as a matter of course in Immigration.” Basso testified that he knew that Woewiyu was also a “member of the Liberian government at points in the past,” and that he told Woewiyu to write that out and have it ready for his interview.
Basso testified that Woewiyu brought his briefcase to the immigration interview, carrying documents Woewiyu had prepared to show the Immigration Officer at the interview. Basso recalled that he and Woewiyu started going over the documents in the waiting room at the USCIS offices while waiting to be called into the interview. Basso testified that Woewiyu had gotten documents from one of his arrests, and was unable to obtain documentation of the other arrest because it was an old conviction in New York, and they did not keep the records that far back.
Basso testified that by the time he went into the hearing with Eikerenkoetter, he had done approximately 200 immigration hearings. He stated that he had done about 400 since then. He confirmed that he has had other hearings with Immigration Officer Eikerenkoetter.
Basso testified that when he and Woewiyu went into the hearing, Eikerenkoetter swore Woewiyu in “just like I was sworn in now.” Basso testified that when Eikerenkoetter came to the substantive questions about travel, divorce, arrest, and membership in a group, she asked Woewiyu for an explanation. Basso testified that Woewiyu started explaining, and “was prepared to offer his explanation,” and that he reached into his briefcase to provide the documents that Woewiyu had prepared. Basso told the jury that Eikerenkoetter “cut him off” and said they did “not have time for that now,” and that she told Woewiyu she would “send him something in the mail.”
Basso testified that to his recollection, the interview lasted 10-15 minutes. He testified that Woewiyu was not able to hand in what he had prepared because “she did not want to take it,” and that Eikerenkoetter said she would send Woewiyu a Form N-14 Request for Evidence.
Basso testified that during the interview, Woewiyu mentioned orally that he was a member of the Liberian government. Basso recalled that Eikerenkoetter was taking notes during the interview, but he did not know whether she specifically wrote that down.
Basso confirmed that Eikerenkoetter had Woewiyu sign the Form N-400 with the corrections she had made. “That’s the practice,” he said.
Basso explained that a Form N-14 is filed in a naturalization proceeding to request missing information or provide clarification to certain answers. Basso testified that the Form N-14 can be used, because “the government has limited amount of time to hear these cases.” Basso testified that Immigration Officers have a certain amount of interviews a day that they “need to get through.” He explained that given the amount of time taken to clarify certain points, applicants might be handed a Form N-14 letter, or be told it would be sent to their attorney.
“We were told we were going to get a Form N-14,” Basso testified. He said that he and Woewiyu eventually received two, and responded to each of them. He testified that he personally delivered the response to USCIS.
The witness was shown a document he recognized as the cover page to the response to the second Form N-14, dated August 13, 2009. He recognized his firm’s letterhead on the cover page, and confirmed the page listed seven documents that were enclosed. He read into the record the statement on the cover page that “It is important to note that I, Raymond Basso, personally hand-delivered” a response to the previous Form N-14 on March 5, 2009; the cover page noted the stamped date on the prior response was “faint but legible.” Basso explained to the jury that he wrote that because the government said it had not received a response to its first Form N-14.
The witness was shown a notarized written statement that answered nine questions, which he characterized as providing information about Woewiyu’s “former service in government.”
The witness was shown a document he identified as the “body of a Request for Evidence.”
The witness was shown the cover page again, and said it indicated that it enclosed answers to questions asked in the Request for Evidence.
Basso then reviewed the enclosures, including Woewiyu’s nine answers to “questions about his involvement in the Liberian government,” and identified Woewiyu’s signature. He stated the document was dated and notarized on August 12, 2009. Basso confirmed it was produced by Woewiyu and notarized because Basso requested it. Basso testified that Woewiyu brought it to Basso’s office and that they went over it together.
Basso confirmed that he does not have personal knowledge of any of the items Woewiyu responded to, “except for Note One.” He testified that Note One of Woewiyu’s response stated that Woewiyu attempted to give to Eikerenkoetter a document that Woewiyu had prepared about his associations, but while he was “fumbling” with his briefcase, Eikerenkoetter said they only had 15 minutes to conduct their interview. Basso testified that Note One stated that Woewiyu only told Eikerenkoetter about his membership in the Union of Liberian Association of the Americas (“ULAA”), an umbrella organization. Basso also testified that Woewiyu wrote in Note One that it was “not my intention to hide my membership.” Basso testified that in Note One, Woewiyu also wrote that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had dropped her case against him.
Basso confirmed that he was present at the interview described in Note One. Basso testified that he did not know if the conversation about the short time period “happened at the very beginning” of the meeting, as indicated in Note One, but stated that it did happen. He testified that he would not have submitted Woewiyu’s response to USCIS if what Woewiyu put in his notarized statement did not comport with Basso’s memory.
Basso testified that his representation of Woewiyu continued after the response to the Form N-14 was submitted on August 13, 2009. Basso testified that “shortly after the interview,” although he did not recall the date, Woewiyu was contacted by a government agency. Basso stated that he did not know at the time which agency it was, but that Woewiyu was requested to go to the Customs House in Philadelphia to answer questions. Basso stated that Woewiyu asked Basso to accompany him, so he did.
Basso testified that there were three officers in the room. To the best of his recollection, the conversation was “about the Liberian Civil War.” He recalled specifically that they discussed in depth the history of Liberia and the events leading up to the First Civil War, and that the conversation went on for “a couple hours.” Basso testified that he did not recall whether he charged Woewiyu for his time, but if he did charge him, “it was minimal.” Basso said the things Woewiyu discussed with the agents were “fascinating,” but Basso had no personal knowledge of them. He said the agents gave no indication of whether they thought Woewiyu was not being truthful.
On cross-examination, Basso testified that he began representing Woewiyu in 2008. He testified he may also have represented Woewiyu in 2010. Basso confirmed that he represented Woewiyu in the 2009 interview with Eikerenkoetter, and that Basso had been in a “limited amount” of other interviews with her. He testified that he has also appeared in hearings with other Immigration Officers at the USCIS Philadelphia offices. He testified that he appeared at approximately 200 naturalization hearings before Woewiyu’s 2009 interview, and possibly 400 since then.
The witness confirmed that he and Woewiyu met with agents at the Customs House after the 2009 interview, although he was not sure of the date. If he “had to guess,” it was “probably 2010.” Basso testified that he was compensated for his representation of Woewiyu, and that he owes Woewiyu a fiduciary duty.
Basso testified that he knew Woewiyu was arrested in 2014, and represented him at the related hearing. Basso testified that he told the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time “that his client took no part in the more brutal part of Taylor’s campaign.” He testified that he specifically stated – and was quoted by the Inquirer as saying – that “Tom had nothing to do with any of that. Immigration and the U.S. government were fully aware of that.”
Basso confirmed that he solely practices immigration law. He testified that when he made that statement to the Inquirer, he had done no discovery in either the case now before the jury, or before Woewiyu was arrested. Basso testified that Woewiyu was his client, and that Basso publicly took that position. Basso disagreed with the prosecutor that he made the statement without “reviewing anything in case,” although he confirmed he did not review discovery prior to making it.
Basso confirmed to the jury that he also said to the Inquirer, in what the prosecution characterized as “opining on the government’s motives” for arresting Woewiyu, “I don’t know. Politically it’s not very popular to be tied to Charles Taylor right now.”
The witness was shown the “Turning the Tables” article that was read into the record on Monday by Special Agent Jennifer Lohmeier. He testified that at the time of his statements to the Inquirer, he did not know Woewiyu was a founding member of the NPFL.
Basso was shown a memorandum previously discussed in this trial, entitled “The Current Situation in Liberia,” and allegedly sent from Woewiyu to the U.S. Department of State on January 22, 1990. Basso testified that he knew of the NPFL’s objective to overthrow “the Doe dictatorship,” which was stated in the memorandum, because the subject came up in the conversation with the three government agents in 2010. He stated it “came to light” during his “subsequent research into the Liberian Civil War. I came to know that happened.”
Basso was then shown the statement Woewiyu made in the Dutch prosecution of Gus Kouwenhoven, previously discussed in this case. Basso testified that he knew Woewiyu was the Minister of Defense, but was not aware that Woewiyu was an “expert on military matters,” as the statement claimed. Basso testified further that he did not know Woewiyu “issued orders to fighters,” as the statement claimed.
Basso was then shown a document that he said appeared to be a resume, and that the document bore Woewiyu’s name. Basso confirmed that he interviewed Woewiyu and went over Woewiyu’s Form N-400 with him. The defense objected to the admission of the document because the witness could not be expected to verify the accuracy of its contents. Defense counsel argued that the document had been “prepared by somebody else,” and that Basso could only know its contents through reading it. Judge Brody did not admit the document into evidence. Basso confirmed that the document stated that Woewiyu served from 1990-1994 as the Minister of Defense of National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly Government. Basso testified that he recalled Woewiyu had made representations to him of being a spokesman, mostly in a public relations role, and was someone whom the international community referred to as the Minister of Defense.
The witness was again shown Woewiyu’s statement in the Dutch case. Basso testified that he became aware at the 2010 meeting with government agents that Woewiyu said that as Minister of Defense, he had given orders to fighters.
Basso testified that he met with Woewiyu and went over the Form N-400 with him prior to the 2009 interview. He testified that in that interview, Woewiyu raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth. He testified that it was after the portion of the Form N-400 about organizations and affiliations that Eikerenkoetter said, “I’ll give you a Request for Evidence for that.”
The witness confirmed that he had knowledge of the procedure of the naturalization process. He confirmed that he was familiar with a “specially scheduled interview” to an extent, but said that it was an “internal” designation used by the government.
The witness testified again that Woewiyu was sworn in at the hearing. Basso then reviewed the N-400, and confirmed that Woewiyu did not write “Union of Liberian Association in the United States” on the form. He confirmed that the only other person at the meeting was the Immigration Officer, so it was the Officer’s writing on the form. Basso stated that he “cannot testify what the Officer heard or wrote” in response to Woewiyu’s answer about membership in groups. Basso did not recall Woewiyu mentioning his affiliation with the NPFL- CRC or NPRAG.
Basso testified he could “imagine” that Woewiyu was asked the “substantive” questions of whether he was ever a member of the Communist Party, a totalitarian party, or a terrorist group. He confirmed that there was a check mark in red pen beside the question on the Form N-400 that asked whether Woewiyu had ever advocated directly or indirectly the overthrow of a government. Basso testified that he does not know if Eikerenkoetter asked the question verbatim. He testified that “often one question will be asked, and the Officer will check down the line.” He disagreed that a red check mark indicated a question on the Form had been asked by the Officer.
Basso confirmed there was a check mark beside the persecution of whether Woewiyu ever persecuted anyone. He confirmed that the “No” box was checked in answer to this question, “but I did not prepare this application.” Basso testified he “cannot recall exactly what questions were asked” by Eikerenkoetter, “but we were prepared to answer those questions at the interview.” He reiterated that he cannot recall if these specific questions were asked.
Basso was read a series of questions from Form N-400, and agreed that all of them were “substantive.” He agreed that the series of questions about the applicant’s taxes and about any past arrests or convictions were “substantive.”
Basso testified that the red pen additions to the questions about previous arrests were not written by Woewiyu. He confirmed that nothing on Woewiyu’s Form N-400 said “anything about falsification of business records.” Basso was shown a letter from January 9, 2005, that stated New York could not find a record of Woewiyu’s arrest that was more than 25 years old. Basso recalled having seen the letter before.
Basso was then shown an attachment to Woewiyu’s Form N-400, and testified that it was submitted at his hearing. Basso testified that the document was a handwritten note in which Woewiyu described himself as a parking attendant who had been caught up in a federal investigation of his place of work, and in the related blanket warrant issued as part of that investigation. Basso testified that the note was in his own handwriting. He stated that he did not know what this “blanket warrant” was about. He testified that he received the information in the note from Woewiyu. He clarified that he did not know about this particular blanket warrant, but that to the best of his knowledge, in general they are warrants covering a number of defendants in a single indictment. When asked about the statement that Woewiyu was never arrested, Basso replied, “Those are his words.” He stated that he understands Woewiyu has a conviction for the falsification of business records.
Returning to Woewiyu’s Form N-400, the witness agreed that all the questions of the Good Moral Character section are “substantive.”
Basso reviewed the final page of Woewiyu’s Form N-400. He confirmed that the final page included an oath that Woewiyu had signed, stating “I swear, affirm, and certify under penalty of perjury.” Basso confirmed that the page noted there were 10 corrections to the Form, and that attached were 20 pages, including the handwritten page he wrote about Woewiyu’s experience as a parking attendant. He confirmed the “10” and “20” were handwritten in red pen. He confirmed that the Officer’s signature was written in red pen, and that Woewiyu’s signature was present.
Basso testified that he had said Eikerenkoetter stated they would “take care of substantive stuff during the Request for Evidence.” Basso confirmed that he had just testified that there were many questions checked with a red pen and that those were substantive questions. He testified that he knew what Eikerenkoetter’s red check marks meant, but that could not say they were complete.
Basso confirmed that Woewiyu received two Form N-14 Requests for Evidence, and Basso had seen both of them. He reviewed the first, and confirmed that USCIS had sent it to Woewiyu, requesting his tax returns for the years 2002 to 2007, and documentation of his divorce. Basso confirmed that Woewiyu’s response included tax information and documentation on the dissolution of his marriage.
Basso again testified that he was told by Eikerenkoetter that they “would take care of substantive information in the Request for Evidence.” “I prepared that document,” he said, testifying that he prepared it in response to the Form N-14, and that there was no mention in it of the NPFL. He testified that he knew about Woewiyu’s membership in the NPFL and although he did not “know all the acronyms,” he “knew Woewiyu was affiliated with the Liberian government in a number of ways.” Basso testified that in Basso’s presence, Woewiyu swore that his statements were true and correct.
Basso confirmed that Woewiyu “testified orally” to being a member of the Liberian government. Basso was shown the memorandum written by Eikerenkoetter about the interview, discussed in court yesterday, where she indicated that Woewiyu had worked in Liberia as the Minister of Labor and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Basso recalled that Woewiyu stated those things to him. He recalled that Woewiyu said that he traveled back and forth, and believed Woewiyu said his last travel was in 2006.
Basso testified Woewiyu said nothing at the time about being the Minister of Defense of the NPFL. Basso stated it was “not necessarily” the time to say that, as if there was limited time to answer questions, an Immigration Officer would end the interview and request more evidence. He stated that an Officer has to try to complete an application. He stated that he has a basic understanding of a specially scheduled interview, but that he is not intimate with U.S. government procedure.
Basso testified that he knew Woewiyu was in the NPFL, that he was a founder, and that his group was trying to overthrow the recognized government of Samuel Doe. He confirmed that Woewiyu checked “No” as to advocating the overthrow of a government. Basso testified that “he didn’t check [that box] at the interview.” He testified that Woewiyu swore beforehand and certified afterwards that his statements in the Form N-400 were correct, and did so in Basso’s presence.
Basso again testified that he prepared Woewiyu’s response to the first Request for Evidence, and that the response said nothing about the NPFL. “Nor was [that information] solicited” in the Request for Evidence, Basso said.
Basso was shown the response to the second Record of Evidence, and confirmed he prepared the response in answer to a number of questions. He confirmed that the Record of Evidence listed a number of organizations.
Basso testified that by the time of the 2009 interview, he knew Woewiyu was a member of the NPFL, but that he did not know if Woewiyu was a founder. Basso testified that he did not know if the NPFL was considered to be a rebel group, and did not know if the NPFL was fighting a legitimate government.
Basso testified that the first Request for Evidence was sent after Woewiyu had been sworn in at the interview. He confirmed that the NPFL was not mentioned in the response to the first Request for Evidence, and that he knew Woewiyu was a member of these groups. Basso disagreed that “the jig was up” when the second Request for Evidence sought information about Woewiyu’s membership of organizations and groups.
On re-direct, Basso refreshed his recollection as to the date of the interview with the three agents. He stated that it occurred on May 6, 2010. He testified that he had no reason to believe that was not the date on which they met, and confirmed it was before Woewiyu received the final decision on his application.
Basso testified that the Immigration Officer’s question that caused Woewiyu to reach into briefcase his briefcase was about Woewiyu’s “past affiliations in the Liberian government.” Basso testified that “We were told that we could address that later.” He reiterated that he believed Eikerenkoetter indicated that she had about 15 minutes to “get this done.” He testified that she “cut [Woewiyu] off as he tried to present the document he prepared.”
Basso testified that when going over the employment history question asked on the Form N-400, Woewiyu briefly mentioned the positions that he had held in the Liberian government. “From what was just presented, she didn’t seem like she wrote it down.” Basso did not believe Eikerenkoetter wrote the information elsewhere. He testified that Woewiyu was trying to supplement his answers to the questions on the Form. He did not know that Eikerenkoetter wrote a memorandum about the meeting four days later.
On re-cross, Basso testified that in the second response to the Request for Evidence, Woewiyu stated that he had fumbled with documents at the beginning of the interview and that the Immigration Officer stated that they had 15 minutes for the interview. He was shown the document listing Woewiyu’s affiliations, and Basso testified that the second response stated that Woewiyu listed the ULAA because it was an umbrella organization that represented all Liberian organizations in America.
Defense Witness 2: Monkojay Thomas Woewiyu
The second witness for the defense was Monkojay Thomas Woewiyu, the defendant’s son. While awaiting his video link testimony, the defense told the jury that the witness was in the U.S. Navy and that he was present in court on Tuesday, but had only one day’s leave to testify in person, and then had to return to his post. Defense counsel said Woewiyu’s son was presented as a witness who would speak to his opinion as to Woewiyu’s honesty and law-abidingness.
The witness testified that the defendant was his father, so it was “fair to say” the witness knew him all his life. He testified that he is a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, and has served for eight years. He told the jury he is currently stationed in Rhode Island, training for his next assignment at sea.
The witness testified that he holds his father in a high regard and that he “builds his own honesty” from his father’s. He testified that “never throughout the years” has he had reason to not believe what Woewiyu told him. The witness testified that even when “taking a step back” and observing his father’s interactions with others, including those working for him, the “things they’ve had to say as well have led” the witness to believe that his father is a “very honest” man. The witness believed he had taken his father’s same values and applied them to his own life, not only in what the witness does for his country, but in how he carries himself as a man.
The witness testified that in his view, his father has been a law-abiding citizen from the time he entered the United States in the late 1960s. He stated that he has never known his father to be involved in issues with the law, and said that his father “always advised me and the rest of his children to be law-abiding citizens,” and always led them in that regard. The witness testified he has never had trouble with the law, nor have his siblings, and said this was a “testament to the man.”
The witness confirmed he was in the courtroom two days ago for the trial, and heard testimony about his father’s prior misdemeanor convictions. He testified they did not change his opinion about whether his father is law-abiding.
On cross-examination, the witness confirmed he has been in the Navy for eight years. He testified that he graduated from college and then made the “considered decision” to join the military. He testified that he was 24 years old when he joined military.
Defense Witness 3: Stephen J. Britt
The next defense witness was Stephen J. Britt, an attorney in private practice. He described his background for the jury, explaining that he has both a Master’s degree and has gone to law school. He testified that he was on active duty with the Marine Corps from 1970-1973, and retired from the Marine Corps Reserves in 2006 as a Lieutenant Colonel. He confirmed he was a Reservist from 1973-2006.
Britt testified that in 1974, he was employed with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”) in Philadelphia as a Criminal Investigator, a position later renamed a Special Agent. He said that he was with INS until 1991, and attended law school at night while still employed with INS. Subsequently, he became an Assistant United States Attorney (“AUSA”), serving four years in the Criminal Division before transferring to the Civil Division. He stated that while he was primarily a prosecutor for his first four years, he did prosecute cases throughout his 12 years as an AUSA.
Britt testified that in 2003, he went into private practice with a focus on immigration law and federal criminal defense. He testified that he has continuously represented people in immigration matters, including both what he called the “clean side” and the “dirty side.” He said the “clean side” were applications for naturalization, green cards, and student visas. He said the “dirty side” was representing people in deportation proceedings.
He confirmed that his prior experience with INS influenced his private practice, and told the jury that in almost 18 years as an Immigration employee, and then 12 years as an AUSA “doing a great deal of immigration work both criminal and civil,” he learned a great deal about immigration work and what applicants “should focus on.” Britt testified that he had represented immigrants in the naturalization process approximately 10 times.
Britt testified that when he was a Special Agent, he investigated immigration fraud frequently, and that he also used that knowledge in private practice. He stated that he accompanied his clients to interviews with USCIS, and performed follow-up work on Form N-14 Requests for Evidence. He said that he has represented his clients from their application all the way through to an appeal. He stated that in his practice, he has kept familiar with how federal regulations apply to immigration matters, and specifically to naturalization matters.
Defense counsel then tendered Britt as an expert on naturalization proceedings.
The prosecution began its voir dire of Britt’s expertise by asking Britt about his role at INS. Britt confirmed that while he was with INS, he was a law enforcement officer with a gun and badge, and that he worked on a variety of cases. He stated he was never an Immigration Examiner; he was always either a Criminal Investigator or a Special Agent. He stated that in recent years, criminal law has been the bulk of his work. He recalled working on 10-15 naturalization cases. He stated that he never met Basso before this morning, when they talked in the courtroom hallway. He agreed that if someone had represented applicants at 400 naturalization hearings, that “would be a lot.”
The prosecution confirmed that it did not object to Britt as an expert, and Judge Brody ruled that Britt may testify.
Britt testified that the naturalization process begins when an “otherwise eligible alien” prepares a Form N-400 and submits it to USCIS. He testified that USCIS ensures that the appropriate fee has been paid, then sends a notice to the applicant to proceed to a biometric center where the applicant’s fingerprints and photographs are taken, after which USCIS sends the applicant a notice of examination. The witness stated he never called it a “hearing.” He agreed that sometimes it is called a “natz exam.”
Britt testified that at the examination, the applicant proceeds into a small office and the Immigration Officer “very cordially” introduces him- or herself. The Officer then takes the applicant’s green card and state-issued ID card, swears in the applicant, and proceeds with the interview. He testified that an examiner has the applicant’s Form N-400 and “invariably” the A-File, which he described as being like “the service record of the alien’s particular case.” He stated that the left-hand side of an A-File has public records, while the right-hand side has private information and notes prepared by Immigration Officers. Britt said that as an Agent, he would put things on both sides of an A-File.
Britt testified that as an agent for 17 years, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, the government was required to investigate all naturalization applications. He stated that in later years there were fewer investigations, as a supervisor could waive them. Previously, Britt said, he would be given an A-File and knock on doors and look at police records; he estimated that he saw hundreds of Form N-400s in this manner.
Britt testified that at a naturalization exam, Officers always took a red pen and would ask every question exactly as it was written on the Form N-400, “all of the questions right through,” marking changes with a red pen. He testified that if an individual gave an answer that supplied information different or supplemental to Form N-400, the applicant would be asked to explain. Britt testified that the explanation was expected to be recorded by the hearing examiner.
Britt testified that if applicants arrived at the interview with documents they wanted to supply, an examiner was expected to take them, consider them, discuss them, and find out what their relevance was with the applicant who came in for the examination. If the examiner did not take documents at the examination, “if they knew they were there but chose not to ask,” the examiner could in theory send a Form N-14 Request for Evidence, and the applicant would then mail in the documents and whatever else was required in response to the Request. Britt said that the “next opportunity to present the documents” post-hearing would depend on how the hearing came out. He explained that there are three possible outcomes: an application is granted, denied, or continued. He told the jury that if an application process is continued for more examination, or an examiner says a Request for Evidence will be sent, then an applicant could send in documents in that way.
Britt testified that in a case where a Form N-14 is sent to an applicant or an applicant’s attorney, and there has been a response, the second interview is supposed to be scheduled between 60 and 120 days of the first interview, in order to give the applicant time to gather relevant information. Britt told the jury there is always a second conference or examination, usually with the same Officer serving as the examiner. He stated that the process ends when an application is either granted or denied. He said that an application is not “fully processed” until the government dismisses it or grants citizenship.
On cross-examination, Britt testified that there is “absolutely not always a second hearing.” He confirmed the interviews occur in a “small room,” and the applicant comes in by themselves or with a lawyer, and that the lawyer “is seated right there and can see everything.” He confirmed Officers use red pen “as a matter of course,” with the applicant’s “lawyer right there next to him.” Britt testified that an applicant takes an oath to tell the truth, and at the end of the interview, certifies that what was said is true under penalty of perjury. Britt stated it is “partially” true that an applicant must tell the truth throughout the process, but confirmed an applicant must certify he told the truth on the form.
On re-direct, Britt testified that at the end of an examination, the Form N-400 is given back to the applicant to sign with its amendments. He stated that if an examiner was not going to grant the application – if there was an issue – the examiner would usually tell you. He stated the applicant signs when the application is ready to be adjudicated. Britt testified that he did not know if an applicant was supposed to be asked to sign an N-400 if he had provided additional information during the examination, and the examiner did not write it down. He testified that he had never seen that occur.
Defense Witness 4: Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu II
The defense’s next witness identified himself as the son of the defendant, and the brother of the previous witness Monkojay Thomas Woewiyu. He testified that he has a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling, and works in the Philadelphia School District.
He stated that the opinion he has formed in the 36 years he has known his father is that “overall he’s an honest person.” The witness stated that his father “always instilled” in the witness and his siblings “and everyone around us to be honest, especially not to steal.” The witness stated his father taught his children not to steal from their friends, their family, or even their nation.
The witness testified that Woewiyu always follows the law. He testified that he spent “a lot of time abroad” with his father in Africa, when Woewiyu was in Liberia as a law-maker. The witness described Woewiyu as a Senator and leader of the Senate, who made laws and led hundreds of thousands of people. He described Woewiyu as “One of the most honest people I know.” He stated that Woewiyu pays his taxes and is a “tax guy.”
On cross-examination, the witness confirmed he had been in Africa with his father. He confirmed his father had been Minister of Labor and Senate Pro Tempore. When asked if his father was the Minister of Labor in Charles Taylor’s government, he responded that his father was the Minister of Labor “in the government of Liberia.”
Defense Witness 5: Naanco Woewiyu
The defense’s next witness identified herself as the daughter of the defendant. She testified that she has a Master’s degree in Social Work and is currently employed by Montgomery County in Maryland, where she is a social worker.
She testified that she has had an opportunity to form an opinion as to her father’s honesty. She stated that she did “believe he is an honest person.” She testified that he taught her to be honest, and taught her all the values she knows. She said he has been a loving father and grandfather.
The witness testified that she believes her father is a law-abiding person. She said that his previous convictions for misdemeanors had not changed her opinion. She stated that in the time she has known him, she has seen no indication that her father has broken the law.
Defense Witness 6: Hawa Dahnsaw
The next defense witness identified herself as the daughter of the defendant. She told the jury that she has two Master’s degrees, one in Social Work and one in Educational Leadership. She testified that she is the principal of a high school in Northern New Jersey, where she has been with the school district for 23 years, and has been a principal for the last 13 years.
Dahnsaw told the jury she has had a “very long” opportunity to form an opinion on her father’s honesty. She said he is the “driving force of our family, the founder of who we are. He made sure we were educated.” She testified that the honesty she was speaking of showed her father to be an honest person, who “developed those types of values in us and the people he’s affiliated with in his community.”
Dahnsaw testified that Woewiyu is a law-abiding person. She said that she had only heard about his previous convictions here in the courtroom, but “nothing has changed in her opinion” because of them. She testified that she was in college “when the rebellion broke out in Liberia.” She testified that throughout that period, she had no reason to think her father was less than honest or not a law-abiding person.
Prosecution Objection to Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) Final Report
The defense moved for the entirety of the TRC Final Report to be admitted into evidence, and the prosecution objected.
The defense argued that portions of the Final Report were already entered through Peggy Lin Chang on Wednesday, and that in her decision denying Woewiyu’s application for naturalization, she said she “solely” relied on the Final Report to reach her decision. Defense counsel argued that Lin’s decision was entered into evidence, which “quoted extensively” from the Report. Defense counsel explained that she cited and quoted the Final Report ten times in a seven-page decision, and that Lin testified that she did not speak to any witnesses.
Defense counsel then argued that it had objected to the government’s motion to admit the naturalization denial decision, and that the government had argued it was relevant to materiality. Defense counsel argued that the jury should be permitted to see the entire report in order to decide whether the report truly is material, and said the “first question the jury will ask” is to see the full contents of the Final Report. Defense counsel argued that because this “whole case is about an application for citizenship,” and the Report was the basis of the denial, the rule of completeness required the jury to see the Report because the jury cannot find the facts if it is not allowed to see all of them.
The prosecution argued that on the stand, Peggy Lin Chang said that she also looked at open source documents, and that the defense already questioned her on the stand as to the relevant parts of the Final Report. The prosecution argued that “She relied on it, but they’re offering it for the truth of the matter asserted.” The prosecution said that the central question was what the Report proved, and that it was hearsay and would confuse the jury.
Judge Brody stated that the Final Report was not hearsay. Judge Brody then asked why, if Chang had relied on it and what she had written based on it was admitted in evidence, the Report should not come in. The prosecution responded that “she said she relied on certain portions, and what she relied on was footnoted” and that the defense had already confronted her with those portions. The defense then quoted from the portion of Chang’s denial decision where she said she relied “solely” on the Report.
Judge Brody ruled that the Report also goes to the issue of materiality. She said she might not allow all of the Report to be given to the jury, and might only allow portions of it in, but ruled that counsel can refer to the Report in the closing arguments. She cautioned the defense counsel that the Report cannot be used for the truth of the matter asserted, and that the defense counsel could not refer to other witnesses contained in the Report.
Defense counsel agreed it would discuss the findings of the Report, and those conclusions Chang had drawn from it. The defense stated it would refer to those exhibits it had cross-examined the witness with, and might refer to other parts as well.
The defense then rested its case. The prosecution did not present a rebuttal case.
The government had no proposed changes to Judge Brody’s Verdict Sheet. The defense proposed a one-word change in each of Counts 3-16, requesting that “knowing” be added as a “scienter adverb or adjective.” Judge Brody ruled that she would not add anything to the Verdict Sheet.
Trial will resume on Monday morning with the parties’ closing statements, after which the jury will begin its deliberations.