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Posted Monday, January 28, 2008
Despite an acquital on terrorism conspiracy, defendant remains in his cage
By Curt Anderson, AP Legal Affairs Writer

MIAMI -- A man facing deportation to Haiti despite his acquittal on terrorism conspiracy charges can speak publicly about his immigration situation but not about the underlying criminal case, a federal judge ruled Monday.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard said that Lyglenson Lemorin, 33, is likely to be a defense witness in the retrial of six remaining members of the so-called "Liberty City Seven" and that she wants to prevent publicity about the first case from influencing potential jurors this time.

Jury selection for the retrial began last week. Prosecutors decided to try the remaining six a second time after jurors in the first case could not agree on their guilt or innocence.

"The court has a duty to make sure that the defendants are tried by a fair and impartial jury," Lenard said at a hearing.

Lemorin's attorneys say he is seeking to publicize what he considers an injustice: that is, to be found innocent by a jury of plotting to destroy Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices and yet be put into deportation proceedings based on the same allegations.

"He wants to get his story out," said attorney Joel DeFabio.

Yet Lenard's order made clear Lemorin can't tell his whole story.

Lemorin was taken the day after his Dec. 13 acquittal from his cell in Miami to an immigration detention center in Lumpkin, Ga. A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said a request for an interview by The Associated Press would be reviewed.

Lenard imposed a broad gag order during the first trial on defense lawyers and prosecutors, and then extended it to DeFabio and Lemorin despite the acquittal. DeFabio and two attorneys assisting him on the gag order - David O. Markus and Scott

Srebnick - had asked Lenard to clarify what Lemorin and DeFabio could and could not say to the press. Srebnick argued that the Constitution's guarantee of a free speech was meant to protect people such as Lemorin, who was "whisked away in the middle of the night" to immigration custody.

"This man needs a voice," Srebnick said.

Prosecutors won their argument that Lemorin should be prevented from discussing the first trial, even though that is linked directly to his immigration situation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Arango said the first week of jury selection has already shown that many people know about the case and have formed opinions.

"We know the effects of pretrial publicity. It's been very, very difficult," Arango said.

In justifying the gag order, Lenard also cited several instances of attempts by defense attorneys to "manipulate" news media by leaking information or giving interviews outside of court.

If convicted of four terrorism conspiracy charges, the remaining six defendants face up to 70 years in prison. At the first trial, alleged ringleader Narseal Batiste testified that he was never serious about the plots and that he played along with a man claiming to be an al-Qaida operative in hopes of conning him out of $50,000.

The purported terror operative was in reality an FBI informant.

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