A day-long sentencing hearing for a man convicted of tax evasion in a case linked to Chechen terrorists ended Tuesday without a ruling. U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan indicated the hearing will resume next month after he researches some legal issues.
At issue is a government attempt to add a "terrorism enhancement" to Pete Seda's sentencing guidelines. Seda was convicted in September of filing a false tax return to hide $130,000 in traveler's checks routed through his Oregon charity, the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, that may have ended up in the hands of Chechen militants.
During Tuesday's hearing, a Russian security official testified via video feed. Sergey Nikolayevich Ignatchenko told the court that Al-Haramain financed Chechen terrorist training camps. He also said he heard wiretapped telephone calls in which an Al-Haramain leader and a Chechen militant discussed shipping weapons including machine guns and an anti-tank grenade launcher.
But Ignatchenko acknowledged not knowing anything about Seda or the Oregon chapter of Al-Haramain.
Exhibits admitted into evidence during Seda's trial show Seda accepted a large donation intended to support "our Muslim brothers in Chychnia," and then surreptitiously shifted the money to Saudi Arabia in the form of difficult-to-trace traveler's checks. Officials could not trace the money's ultimate destination once it was sent abroad.
Seda could face eight years in prison if the terrorism enhancement is applied. Defense attorneys are asking for a sentence of six months in prison. Before the hearing adjourned, Seda told the court he did not support terrorism and that he "tried my best to keep my eye on the prize of coexistence."