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Friday, July 11, 2008


St. Petersburg Times

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8 B | Friday, July 11, 2008 | St. Petersburg Times * * * * F

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. FRIES continued from 1B

. AL-ARIAN continued from 1B

Judge grants Al-Arian bail

In late 2005, a Tampa jury acquitted him on eight of the charges and dead- locked on nine others. In May 2006, Al-Arian accepted a plea agreement for helping associates of a terrorist organization with nonviolent activi- ties. He finished serving his 57-month sentence in April. Under the terms of the plea deal, Al-Arian would have been deported “expeditiously” as soon as the sen- tence was done, but a federal prosecu- tor in Virginia wanted him to testify before a grand jury investigating an Islamic think tank in Herndon, Va. Al- Arian refused, saying it violated the terms of his plea agreement. Al-Arian’s trial on the criminal contempt charges is scheduled for mid August. If found guilty, he could remain in prison for years. Al-Arian’s attorney, Jonathan Turley, said, “ The government has painted itself into a corner with Dr. Al-Arian. … Either it must release him on bond or deport him very soon.” What “soon” means is not clear. Arturo Rios Jr., a St. Petersburg lawyer specializing in immigration issues, said it’s not uncommon for a judge to grant bail and then for immi- gration officials to take custody of an individual. Once Al-Arian is in the custody of ICE, authorities will have 48 hours to give him a notice to appear, which Rios described as a summons to begin the deportation process. He said deportation could happen within 60 days from that point or take up to a year, depending on the case. In a separate order from Al-Ari- an’s conditions of release, which include him posting $340,000 he has in his retirement pension, U.S. Dis- trict Judge Leonie Brinkema said that ICE has filed an immigration detainer with the U.S. Marshal Ser- vice. Brinkema ordered that once Al- Arian posts bail, he must be released into the custody of ICE. Officials are to



continued from 1B

Will he survive the blast?

have talked about today’s meet- ing, Angel’s representatives this week performed their own disap- pearing act. Contacted Wednes- day, they said they would call right back. They never did. They also didn’t return calls Thursday. Asked about the secrecy, Mayor Frank Hibbard said, “They don’t like divulging what they’re doing for preparation purposes. “They don’t want people watching the process, watching what they do,” he said. Hibbard, who has long wanted the rundown building removed, said he is not concerned with the methods, only the results. “All I care about is that the Spyglass disappears,” he said. “Whether it’s a bulldozer, dyna- mite or an illusionist, it better disappear.” City officials say they aren’t quite sure how the Clearwater made the list of cities the enter- tainer is considering. They only know an A&E producer con- tacted them about it recently. The show would reimburse any city costs to stage the event, city spokesman Doug Matthews said. He said he understands that A&E wants to start promot- ing the show’s fourth season in the next week or so. “It would be extraordinary publicity because it’s a popular show,” Matthews said. “ To do it live and feature Clearwater and the new BeachWalk and all the things we’re doing — you can’t put a price on that.”

Times researcher Caryn Baird con- tributed to this report. Mike Donila can be reached at mdonila@sptimes. com or (727) 445-4160.

French fry grandmother is acquitted

tified that Merola was visibly agitated and ver- bally abusive to Parco. Parco told the court Merola said she hoped he was Christian because he was “pure evil and going to hell.” Merola did not testify, and the defense did not present any witnesses. Sue Cushell, whose daughter videotaped the arrest, said Parco was very calm throughout the ordeal. Merola, on the other hand, “wagged her fin- ger in his face and gave him a piece of her mind,” Cushell said. McDonald’s shift manager Sarah Curtis said she had to deliver food for nearly an hour to stuck patrons. And it took her two tries to get Merola to take her unsalted fries. Police Cpl. Carl Conyers said he advised Parco to arrest Merola, despite his repeated attempts to defuse the situation. “He did not want to take her to jail,” Conyers said. Parco was later cleared by police supervisors of any policy violation in the way he handled Merola’s arrest. But in May, Parco resigned from the Police Department during an internal affairs investi- gation of allegations that he behaved inappro- priately March 29 when responding to a child- custody call. Witnesses told investigators that he offered a 15-year-old girl chewing tobacco, fired his Taser into his cruiser windshield to demonstrate how it worked and showed the teen a computer video of a cow being Tasered. He denied doing those things, but electronic usage logs on the com- puter and Taser indicated otherwise. Defense attorney Steven Andrews said he and Merola learned a lot throughout the trial and felt sorry for Parco in the end. “There’s no winners here,” Andrews said. After the verdict, Merola said little herself and was cut off by her attorney several times when she began to speak.

off by her attorney several times when she began to speak. MEG LAUGHLIN Times Nahla Al-Arian



Nahla Al-Arian and Leena Al-Arian, Sami Al-Arian’s wife and daughter, who live in Cairo, react with joy to a federal judge granting bond.

make Al-Arian available for all hear- ings in his criminal case. After court Thursda y, Turley called the contempt case is “a ruse.” Al-Arian has spoken with prosecutors about the think tank and has even agreed to take a polygraph test. What the pros- ecutors really want, said Turley, is Al- Arian to answer questions about the Florida case, “which is a clear viola- tion of the plea agreement.” Prosecutors in Virginia could not be reached for comment. Linda Moreno, who represented Al-Arian at his 2005 trial, cheered the judge’s ruling. “I’m so happy that Judge Brinkema restores the confi- dence that Americans are due in our system of justice ,” she said. Becky Steele, regional director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the judge appears to be holding the executive branch account- able. “The heartening thing for me here

is that the system seems to be working and that the judge is making an inde- pendent assessment of what seems to be persecution by the government,” Steele said. But lawyer Eddie Suarez said he doesn’t think the ruling does much. “At the end of the day, I’m not sure we’ve accomplished a whole lot,” Suarez said. “He’ll still be held on these immigration issues.” If Al-Arian is released on bond, his wife, Nahla, 47, said she and two of her children will return from Cairo to the United States to reunite with her husband and their three other chil- dren. On the other hand, the family will wait to reunite in Cairo if Al-Arian is deported soon. “Either way, it looks as if we will finally be a family again,” Nahla said.

Meg Laughlin can be reached at mlaughlin@sptimes.com.

. BIOGRAPHY Criss Angel (Christopher Sarantakos) Age: 40. Residence: Las Vegas. Career: Learned his first
Criss Angel
(Christopher Sarantakos)
Age: 40.
Residence: Las Vegas.
Career: Learned his first
magic trick from his aunt
at age 6. Performed at par-
ties and restaurants, a local
cable TV show and some
television specials before
staging 600 off-Broadway
per formances in New York.
Then created Criss Angel
Mindfreak, which debuted
in July 2005. Last season
the show attracted 2.7-
million viewers. Also has
appeared on late-night talk
shows, Larry King, Oprah
and CSI: New York.
Quote: “I consider myself an
artist who uses many differ-
ent paintbrushes to create
the image I want, whether
it’s using illusions, magic,
mentalism, hypnosis,
escapes, performance art
or music.” (Chicago Tribune,
Aug. 6, 2006)
continued from 1B
57 months
for data thief
van said he did it because he was
desperate. His wife was unem-
ployed and he had no money in
his 401(k), he said.
“I (in) no way intended to cause
anybody any grief or hardship,”
Sullivan said in
court. “Every
week it hap-
pened, I regret-
ted it … but it
didn’t stop me
from doing it.”
actions caused
Certegy to
notify about
8.4-million Americans — includ-
ing 460,000 Floridians — that
their data had been methodically
stolen over a five-year period.
Seven class-action lawsuits
resulted, and six remain, which
are in various stages of being set-
tled, Palermo said.
The people who sued Certegy
over their information being sold
have won a judgment for attor-
neys’ fees of about $2.35-million,
according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said victims
included residents of all 50 states,
the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico
and military personnel overseas.