Two orders issued Monday by a federal judge in Detroit dealt harsh blows to the defense strategy expected from attorneys for Rasmieh Odeh, the subject of a new 5-part video series by the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Odeh is scheduled to go on trial Nov. 4 on two counts of immigration fraud, stemming her conviction in an Israeli court for a 1969 terrorist bombing in Jerusalem that killed two college students. On immigration applications to come to America and later to become a citizen, Odeh failed to acknowledge her arrest, conviction and imprisonment.
Odeh confessed to the bombing, but later claimed that it was the result of extended torture and mistreatment. Her allies have waged a national campaign aimed at casting her as a victim of injustice and getting the charges dropped.
U.S. District Judge Gershwin A. Drain ruled that the torture claims, and a psychologist's theory that Odeh suffers from post-traumatic stress as a result, are inadmissible at trial. He reversed an original order which would have required that prosecutors prove that Odeh withheld the information about her conviction with the specific intent of illegally becoming an American citizen.
The psychologist would have testified that the omission could have been a result of the PTSD. Now, "the Government need only prove [Odeh] made a false statement knowing it to be false," Drain ruled. The PTSD testimony is inadmissible.
In a separate order, he rejected Odeh's motion to stop prosecutors from introducing records from the Israeli prosecution in order to prove that her conviction and 10 years in an Israeli prison really took place. That doesn't mean Drain is ruling out the possibility Odeh was mistreated and coerced into confessing. "However, the issue here is whether [Odeh] provided false answers on her Visa and Naturalization Applications," he wrote.
The Israeli evidence came via a mutual treaty between the United States and Israel, he explained. The Constitution says "treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby..."
In addition, records establishing Odeh's conviction go to the heart of the case. Immigrants to the United States must show they are of good moral character before becoming citizens. By omitting that information on her application, Odeh hid information that likely would have kept her out of the country.
"The probative value of this evidence is overwhelming," Drain wrote.
In discussing the 1969 supermarket bombing, however, prosecutors and their witnesses are not allowed to describe it as a "terrorist" act. That, Drain ruled, would be unduly prejudicial. Odeh's attorneys also asked for another delay in the trial, saying they need more time to prepare their defense, especially in light of the late pre-trial rulings.