Everyone has the right to be defended: Even accused terrorists - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Everyone has the right to be defended: Even accused terrorists

“Everybody has a right to be defended, and every lawyer has a duty to defend people accused. And my office is to defend him, to discuss the accusation point by point, as I think this is a normal step in a democracy.” — Jacques Verges

A basic tenet of American justice is everyone, regardless of standing, has the right to be defended by an attorney in court. That tenet is often tested when egregious circumstances, such as terrorism, strike at the very fiber of America’s safety.

The truth is simple: even persons accused of terrorism deserve constitutional protections.

Maalik Jones

When Maalik Jones was arrested on terrorism charges, a Nevada attorney paid close attention when the news appeared in a Las Vegas newspaper.

Jones, from Baltimore, traveled to New York before crossing Morocco and Kenya before linking up with al-Shabab, the ultra-conservative Islamic terrorist group, in Somalia.

Raised in the African-American Muslim neighborhood of Upton, in the Baltimore suburbs, Jones’ school was the Islamic Community School on West North Avenue. There, Jones learned he could go overseas and study his faith.

Jones, now being held in New York, faces charges of lying to investigators and financing terrorism.

It’s the last charge which caught the eye of Nicholas Wooldridge, a criminal defense attorney in Las Vegas who has built something of a reputation for defending accused terrorists.

Old School Blended With High-Tech

Nick Wooldridge folded the newspaper, sat it down on the corner of the Formica covered table and sipped the last drop from the white, pyrex coffee cup in The Golden Steer where Charles Bronson used to pass the time away.

Wooldridge would spend the rest of the day on his phone, tablet, and laptop. But he found comfort in the old school feel of ink on paper.

For anyone watching Wooldridge, and knew him, they would agree the confluence of old and new, was a solid image of the man himself.

Current on the latest technology, Wooldridge was also well acquainted with old-school matters. He practiced law the same way — blending the old with the new.

Able to reach into his experience and knowledge of the latest court rulings, Wooldridge cared for his clients with values such as hard work, dependability and a desire to see those without a voice get their chance to be heard in the halls of justice.

While in law school, Wooldridge learned the arcs of truth, justice and facts run parallel. He took it as his mission to bend the arcs, so they converged at the intersection of fairness for each of his clients. For Wooldridge, his clients come first. Their network doesn’t matter. Their social standing doesn’t matter, and the crimes they are accused of don’t matter as much as finding fairness, truth, and justice for each of them.

Nicolai Mork

In 2017, Las Vegas police caught up with Nicolai Mork, an MIT grad who had been accused of terrorism and other illicit acts linked to weapons of mass destruction.

That year, on April 5, Wooldridge went to court representing Mork and sought a reduction in Mork’s $8 million bail. Wooldridge argued that prosecutors over chased the case and Mork was well within his rights to possess the explosive ingredients.

Telling the court Mork had a “full, factual and legal defense” to the accusations, Wooldridge was in his element and pulled out all the stops in defending the accused terrorist.

Prosecutors told the court the chemicals police found were “strong enough to penetrate a military tank.

“Despite charging Mr. Mork with ácts of terrorism,” Wooldridge wrote, “Mr. Mork’s previous neighbors reported they were able to put out the supposed éxplosive devices with a garden hose.”

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Ninety-minutes before the explosions went off at the end of the April 2013 Boston Marathon, convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev texted a friend and said, “Don’t start thinking it’s me.”

That friend, Azamat Tazhayakov was arrested and pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice. Tazhayakov and his University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth roommate, Dias Kadyrbayev visited Tsarnaev’s room, following the explosions, took a backpack, fireworks and a laptop according to prosecutors.

Wooldridge was Tazhayakov’s defense attorney and told the jury his client isn’t a terrorist and never meant to help Tsarnaev. He [Tazhayakov] never “even touched that bag’ or agree to throw it away,” Wooldridge told the silent courtroom.

Wooldridge portrayed his client as a “naive, pot-smoking teenager.” Initially facing a four-year sentence, Wooldridge was able to get the sentence reduced, and Tazhayakov was sent to prison in Ashland, Kentucky.

 When he was released in 2016, he was transferred from the custody of the Bureau of Prisons to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.

 What happened to Tsarnaev?  At age 22 in June 2015, he was sentenced to die and is being held at the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado until his appeals are exhausted.


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