Motion filed to dismiss ‘vindictive’ indictment of Rasmea Odeh

Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh’s defense team recently filed a motion to dismiss the U.S. Attorney’s new indictment brought against her last December. Odeh was originally indicted in 2013, and the prosecutors won the conviction in 2014 before it was overturned in 2016.

In 2014, Odeh was convicted of naturalization fraud for not disclosing on immigration applications that she was arrested by Israeli authorities in 1969. The conviction was overturned after  the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the judge inappropriately excluded expert testimony that Odeh was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of  applying for naturalization.

The motion argues that the new indictment “has substantially broadened the scope of the trial and the evidence that will be relevant and at issue.” This claim is essential in determining if the indictment violates  the statute of limitations for the alleged crime.

Odeh’s alleged offense from 2004 has a 10 year statute of limitation. While this new indictment was filed 12 years after the alleged offense, prosecutors were able to bring about a superseding indictment because the conviction from the original 2013 indictment was overturned.

However, the motion argues that because of “a substantive change in the nature of the superseding indictment” this new indictment does not meet the exception for the statute of limitations. According to the Department of Justice, superseding indictments filed after the statute of limitations period is over may not broaden the charges of the original indictment.

According to Michael Deutsch, Odeh’s lead attorney, the new indictment departs from the original one because the new allegations try to prove that Odeh was involved in terroristic activities.  

“Now they are going to try and prove that she was guilty of terrorist activity back in Israel in 1969 and they’re going to try and prove that she was a member of the PFLP which then they’re also going to try and prove was a terrorist organization. So, that’s not what they tried to prove in the first trial. In fact, in the first trial the judge said that whether she was guilty or innocent of the charges back in Israel was not relevant and that he wasn’t going to let the jury consider whether she was a member of the PLFP or whether it was a terrorist organization,” Deutsch said.

The motion also claims that the indictment infringes upon Odeh’s 6th amendment right to a speedy trial.

“She’s accused of doing something in 2004 and she’s not being brought to trial until 2017 so that’s a delay in her right to speedy trial,” Deutsch said.

Finally, the motion alleges that the indictment is a ‘vindictive’ response to Odeh’s defense team’s success in fighting the initial conviction and convincing the court that the expert testimony should not have been ruled inadmissible.

“Because Ms. Odeh was successful in obtaining her fundamental constitutional right to a fair trial, the government has retaliated with a new indictment accusing Ms. Odeh of involvement in terrorist activities and affiliations. This is the essence of an improper vindictive prosecution – the government brings a new indictment in response to a defendant’s exercise of a constitutional right,” the motion reads.

Deutsch says that he is “moderately hopeful” that the motion will succeed.

“I think the law is on our side and we’ll see what the judge does,” Deutsch said.

Yasmeen Abdellatif

Yasmeen Abdellatif is a Palestinian-American student at Saint Xavier University in Chicago. She is an English major and minors in Writing, Middle Eastern Studies, and Spanish.

Leave a Reply