ACLU will represent NJ-NYC bombing suspect Rahami
NEWARK — The American Civil Liberties Union is representing a man accused of setting off bombs in New York and New Jersey and injuring 31 people.
In a statement released late Monday, the ACLU said both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office "continue to improperly deny terror suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami the right to an attorney," and that they'd work with public defenders to secure them access to Rahami.
Until Rahami’s federal public defenders are able to represent him, the ACLU-NJ will serve as Rahami’s legal counsel on federal charges, the group said.
“The right of an accused person to have an attorney is a fundamental, undeniable right, regardless of the charges,” ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Alexander Shalom said. “It’s extremely disturbing that Mr. Rahami’s lawyers have not been able to verify their client’s health condition, including his level of consciousness. No one’s interests are protected when law enforcement attempts to circumvent the Constitution.”
A lawyer for the organization's New Jersey chapter entered a notice of appearance in Ahmad Khan Rahami's case in federal court in Newark on Monday.
Rahami has been hospitalized since he was caught following a shootout with police in Linden last week. Prosecutors said he had been incapacitated and intubated since undergoing surgery for his wounds.
He was charged by federal prosecutors in both states.
ACLU attorney Alexander Shalom says Rahami's father and wife requested the ACLU represent him until he is appointed a federal public defender or other lawyer.
A federal judge last week denied a public defender's request to be appointed.
According to the ACLU, the Union County Prosecutor has prevented his local public defender from checking on his client’s condition, based on arguments that Rahami’s reported lack of consciousness means the arrest warrant has not been executed.
“It is outrageous that Mr. Rahami has been in custody for a week yet has been denied the right to have an attorney visit him to confirm his condition and protect his constitutional rights,” ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer said in a statement from the group. “Mr. Rahami, like all criminal defendants, has a right to a lawyer. Denying a defendant the right to counsel violates the Constitution and needlessly sacrifices civil liberties in the name of national security."
Also this week:
A group of runners whose New Jersey race was canceled after a pipe bomb exploded on the route linked arms as they joined a New York City race Sunday, and said they had no fear about taking part.
The racers, wearing matching white T-shirts, were among the 30,000 participants in the annual Tunnel to Towers Run, joining firefighters in full gear and wounded veterans. The run traces the route of off-duty firefighter Stephen Siller, who died after running from Brooklyn to the World Trade Center on 9/11. Proceeds go to building smart homes for wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
On Sept. 17, the pipe bomb went off on the course of the Semper Five charity 5K in Seaside Park, New Jersey. No one was injured.
Robert Schenk, a Brick, New Jersey, resident who had been at the Seaside Park starting line, said he "didn't hesitate one second" to sign up for the Tunnel to Towers race and was "just nervous" to finish it, like any other race.
"I feel fortunate given everything last weekend that I'm able to get up and do it," said Schenk, a 55-year-old program manager in communications for the U.S. Army.
The Seaside Park bombing was one in a series in the New York-area last week. Bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami was taken into custody Monday and is facing charges in both New York and New Jersey, authorities said.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was at the race, said the group of Semper Five runners shows that terrorists "haven't stopped us."
"I'm glad they came out because they showed what America is all about," Giuliani said.
Hundreds of security officers were at Sunday's race, said Siller's brother, Frank Siller, who is the CEO of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Security protocols were not changed by the bombings, he said.
Since the first race in 2002, Tunnel to Towers has raised more than $70 million and built or designed 56 smart homes for wounded veterans, officials said.
The end of the course was lined by hundreds of firefighters holding photos of first responders who were killed on 9/11.
Susan Riggs, a 55-year-old Semper Five participant from Westfield, New Jersey, said it was "amazing."
"I was really teary-eyed to know we were following in (Siller's) footsteps, and these guys are doing the same thing," she said.
— Staff and Associated Press reports.
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