LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

ACLU-NJ Will Represent Man Accused of Bombings in NJ and NY

By Briana Vannozzi
Correspondent

The ACLU of New Jersey today confirming attorney Alex Shalom will represent Amhad Kahn Rahami, the man accused of multiple bombing attacks in New Jersey and New York that left more than 30 people injured.

“We were in touch with the father, Mr. Rahami’s father, and his wife who recognized that there was this gap time where his rights weren’t being protected and we agreed to fill that void because we think the principle, that people are entitled to lawyers, is an important one and one worth protecting,” Shalom said.

The American Civil Liberties Union entered a notice of appearance for his case in federal court Monday. According to the filing, the ACLU’s representation is limited to the time period before Rahami is appointed a federal public defender — that’s the likely scenario — or obtains other legal counsel.

“When we saw that there was this void where the courts were saying you don’t yet have a right to a lawyer, that troubled us and we recognized that was a spot we could step up and ensure his constitutional rights were protected,” Shalom said.

The ACLU claims judges in both states denied attempts by public defenders to represent Rahami. According to an FBI spokesperson, Rahami remains in critical condition — incapacitated and intubated. He’s been in Newark’s University Hospital since his apprehension during a bloody shootout in Linden. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office says that means authorities haven’t been able to properly serve the complaints against him.

Has the family been able to see him or make any contact with him?

“The family was able to speak with his treating physician yesterday for the first time,” Shalom said.

But neither the family nor the FBI will release specifics about his condition.

“In this case he has not yet expressed his intention and therefore thus far, the magistrates in both New Jersey and New York in federal court have denied the request by the federal public defender to appear and the county prosecutor in Union County has said no, we have to wait and give him an opportunity to express his thoughts on this,” said attorney George Spadoro.

Rahami faces federal charges for using weapons of mass destruction as well as state charges for the attempted murder of law enforcement officers.

“In this particular case, as far as we can tell, he has been unconscious effectively since he was originally apprehended. What that means is the initial process of either Mirandizing or executing the authority under the public safety exception and doing a preliminary interrogation before the Miranda warnings are in place has not been done,” Spadoro said.

And as attorney and former Edison mayor, Spadoro explains the situation is particularly complex because it involves multiple jurisdictions. At a U.S. Senate hearing today, FBI Director James Comey revealed so far, the investigation shows Rahami was acting alone.

“Do you believe that Rahami was part of a cell of other terrorists that were planning attacks?” asked Sen. Cory Booker.

“That investigation, as I said earlier, is open. We see so far no indication of a larger cell or the threat of related attacks,” Comey said.

Ultimately it will be up the U.S. attorney general to determine the lead jurisdiction in the case. Now that’s likely to be the southern district of Manhattan where bombs detonated and civilians injured. Rahami was scheduled to make his first court appearance in Union Wednesday, but the prosecutor’s office confirms that date is postponed.