TAMPA, Fla. – In a stinging defeat for prosecutors, a former Florida professor accused of helping lead a terrorist group that has carried out suicide bombings against Israel was acquitted on nearly half the charges against him Tuesday, and the jury deadlocked on the rest. The case against Sami Al-Arian, 47, had been seen as one of the biggest courtroom tests yet of the Patriot Act’s expanded search-and-surveillance powers. After a five-month trial and 13 days of deliberations, the jury acquitted Al-Arian of eight of the 17 counts against him, including a key charge of conspiring to maim and murder people overseas. The jurors deadlocked on the others, including charges that he aided terrorists. Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida computer engineering professor, wept after the verdicts, and his attorney, Linda Moreno hugged him. He will return to jail until prosecutors decide whether to retry him on the deadlocked charges. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Two co-defendants, Sameeh Hammoudeh and Ghassan Zayed Ballut, were acquitted of all charges. A third, Hatem Naji Fariz, was found not guilty on 25 counts, and jurors deadlocked on the remaining eight. “While we respect the jury’s verdict, we stand by the evidence we presented in court,” Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said. Al-Arian’s wife, Nahla, celebrated outside the courthouse with family members and supporters. “I’m ecstatic,” she said. “My husband is an outspoken Palestinian activist who loved this country, believed in the system, and the system did not fail him.” Moreno said she hoped prosecutors would take into account the “overwhelming number of not-guilty verdicts” against the defendants in deciding whether to try Al-Arian again. “We are so grateful to these jurors,” Moreno said. “They worked hard.” She planned to ask the court soon to release Al-Arian from jail. Federal prosecutors said Sami Al-Arian and his co-defendants acted as the communications arm of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, spreading the word and raising money that went toward the suicide attacks that have killed hundreds. Al-Arian was considered one of the most important terrorist figures to be brought to trial in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. His indictment in 2003 was hailed by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft as one of the first triumphs of the Patriot Act, which was enacted in the weeks after Sept. 11. The Patriot Act gave the government greatly expanded powers and broke down the wall between foreign intelligence investigations and domestic law enforcement. In the Al-Arian case, officials said, it allowed separate FBI investigations – one of them a years-long secret foreign intelligence probe of the professor’s activities – to be combined and all the evidence used against him. A male juror, whose name was being kept secret by the court, said he did not see the case as a First Amendment issue, as defense attorneys had claimed, explaining that the decision came down to lack of proof. “I didn’t see the evidence,” he said. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest By Todd NeeleyDTN Staff ReporterOMAHA (DTN) — Harvest weather may be favorable in much of the Midwest in September and concerns about an early first freeze for many farmers may have diminished, DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist Bryce Anderson said Wednesday during DTN’s harvest weather outlook webinar.Anderson said despite concerns across the Corn Belt about an early freeze, DTN’s forecast calls for a normal or average first-freeze date in many regions.In most central and Northern Plains areas, crops will “race the average” first freeze date, he said. In many areas where crop development is behind, Anderson said the first freeze date needs to lag by at least one week to help crops make up ground.“If there is a freeze in the last 10 days of September, there will be crop damage,” he said. “In some areas, crops will have a chance of meeting maturity.”The first freeze date in places like central Nebraska and central Iowa, for example, usually falls during the first 10 days of October.“Usually in this area the first freeze is not a big deal,” Anderson said. “Not this year.”In the southern and Eastern Corn Belt, an October frost date will be likely, he said. “It is in a part of the country where planting was very, very late,” Anderson said.TEMPERATURE FORECASTSIn the north and central Midwest, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting below-normal harvest temperatures.“In our view, in the upper atmosphere high pressure is ridging,” Anderson said.Low pressure in Western Canada is a “weak feature,” he said. However, NOAA forecasts call for low pressure to move south, leading to above-average precipitation and below-average temperatures.In DTN’s view, Anderson said there will be near- to above-average temperatures in the fall for many regions, which is favorable for late crop development.He said the good news for farmers across much of the Midwest is that in the next 10 days upper air features indicate major crop areas are unlikely to get “real cold, real fast.” That’s because a zonal flow of high pressure across the U.S. should allow favorable temperatures for crop development.Anderson said this may bode well for states such as Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin where crop development is woefully behind as a result of a series of wet weather events in the spring.Over the next seven days, however, Anderson said there will be a cooler trend for the Northern Plains and the northern Midwest.When it comes to precipitation during the next seven days, Anderson said there will be an area of moderate-to-heavy rainfall from the northern Midwest to the Southeast. The Eastern Corn Belt is likely to see just areas of light precipitation in the next seven days.Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and others in the upper Midwest face a deficit of 50 to 100 growing degree days. In the western and northern Midwest, Anderson said, the cooler pattern has not allowed crop maturity to continue.PACIFIC COOLINGDuring the July-to-August time frame, he said the eastern Pacific Ocean has cooled, moving from an El Nino pattern to neutral.“When the eastern Pacific has cooled the response is hotter and drier in the Southern Plains,” Anderson said.When it comes to precipitation, Anderson said September throughout the Plains will not be quite as wet as NOAA’s forecast.One wildcard to consider is the level of storm activity in the tropics, he said. Currently there is an elevated potential for tropical storms in the Gulf of Mexico to include a forecasted 16-named storms.“Tropical activity is one potential problem for the fall weather harvest outlook,” Anderson said.“Harvest is going to be late. There will be a lot more grain dried down than we’ve seen in some areas.”BENEFICIAL RAINSOn a positive note, Anderson said recent 1- and 2-inch rainfalls in central areas of the Midwest came at a time when crops needed the moisture. “It is going to help, I don’t think we can discount that,” he said.Despite a favorable fall forecast, Anderson said it’s difficult to say how the wet spring weather, which led to 19 million acres of prevented planting this year, will affect the final harvest.“It was a very wet year — well above average in most states and near-record amounts,” he said. “It has caused a whole lot of complications. There are still areas of concern. This is not going to go away.”In looking at the vegetation index as of Aug. 1, Anderson said there are many areas of the map colored in brown — indicating areas of zero vegetation.“It illustrates the kind of acreage loss and prevented planting we’re dealing with this year” in areas across the Corn Belt, he said.One question asked is whether prevented planting acres were on subpar quality acres.“There’s some of that, but also real good ground that was too wet to plant,” Anderson said. “We do have uneven crops all over the place.”Anderson pointed to McLean County, Illinois, an annual powerhouse corn-producing area that turns out consistent crops. As of Aug. 21, he said the county’s corn crop is facing lack of pollination and extreme variability.“It is an area where usually development of crops is uniformly large,” he said. “We’re not seeing that this year.”Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN(ES/CZ)© Copyright 2019 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.