Wednesday, January 11, 2017



Judge puts off decision on Shabazz plea request


KINGSTON – In a Kingston courtroom crowded with over 40 supporters, attorney Michael Sussman and defendant Ismail Shabazz submitted a motion to retract Shabazz's October 28 guilty plea to one count of weapons possession. Sussman also submitted a motion to be removed from the case, so that Shabazz can retain other counsel, withdraw his plea and proceed to trial.

Justice Richard McNalley Jr. stated that he was not inclined to grant either motion, refusing to allow either the plea withdrawal or to allow Sussman to recuse himself until Shabazz has other representation.

The judge scheduled another court session for Tuesday, January 17, to further discuss the issue. Shabazz will be required to either have representation to replace Sussman or to apply for representation by a public defender at that time. Sussman will continue to act as Shabazz's attorney up until the point where Shabazz retains other counsel.

“It’s just another day,” Shabazz told Mid-Hudson News after the court session.  “I fight for justice all the time, so when I go out the door, there is no guarantee that I will come back. I am glad [the judge] gave me the opportunity. Now I have to do my job and look for some lawyers,” he said. “If push comes to shove, I will do it pro se. Will he accept it or reject it; just putting the mother in myself there, I can do that.”  

Outside the courtroom, local activist Joanne Steele spoke at length, pointing out that this case is what she believes to be a clear example of targeting Muslims and particularly Black Muslims in New York, to boost Homeland Security credibility. She spoke of her long association with Shabazz, and framed this case as a direct attack on community in Ulster County.

Terry Leroy, of Haitian People's Support Project, said Shabazz was a peacemaker, a longtime member of activist organizations, working to stop violence in the Hudson Valley. Leroy invited everyone to this Sunday's Martin Luther King event at the Woodstock Community Center, where this case would again be discussed for the education of the community-at-large.

"We have an innocent man who couldn't accept his decision to take a plea and have an appearance of guilt on any count because he is innocent,” Leroy said. “As a community we support his decision. To allow the plea to stand is a violation of his conscience, and a violation against our community conscience. Ismail could not allow this.”  

The arrest of Shabazz, 63, on June 26, 2015, was the culmination of a two-year effort by federal agents attempting to develop a terrorism case against the activist and grandfather.

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