- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2009

A federal judge has refused a defense team’s bid to throw out an embezzlement case involving one of the nation’s most influential mosques, ruling that the defense fell well short of proving prosecutorial misconduct.

“It is clear the defendant is attempting to claim of government misconduct, but the convoluted nature of the motion leaves the court unable to make out any specific claims,” Judge Royce C. Lamberth wrote in a 21-page opinion released Thursday. “This is not to affirmatively state that there was no evidentiary misconduct by the government, but rather that if there was, defendant’s motion does not clearly identify it.”

Defense attorneys for Farzad Darui, a former top official at the Islamic Center of Washington D.C., had asked the judge to dismiss the case, accusing prosecutors of withholding evidence and of allowing its star witness to commit perjury and obstruct justice.

Prosecutors say Mr. Darui stole more than $435,000 from the Saudi-financed mosque while he was business manager there. The first trial ended in a mistrial in 2008 when a jury could not reach a verdict. No date has been set for a retrial, but the government has committed itself to pursuing the case.

The key witness against Mr. Darui is the center’s director, Abdullah M. Khouj. Defense attorneys argued that Mr. Khouj committed perjury and prosecutors knew it, an accusation they denied and that Judge Lamberth ruled was not proven.

Mr. Darui’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, said much of the missing money was used by Mr. Khouj to support his mistress Debbi Estrada. Mr. Khouj denied having a relationship with Miss Estrada or even knowing where she was.

The defense said it later learned that the Islamic Center had paid $500 a month for Miss Estrada to live in an apartment in Arlington. Prosecutors said that arrangement didn’t begin until after the trial, but the defense argued Mr. Khouj’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice. The judge disagreed.

“Defendant offers no legal support that dismissal, or preclusion of future testimony, is the proper remedy absent government knowledge of Khouj’s perjury,” Judge Lamberth wrote. “The defendant’s spotty allegations do not provide grounds for such extraordinary action by the court.”

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