Rasmieh Odeh's appeal of her naturalization fraud conviction, like her trial defense, was filled with emotion.
Unfortunately for her, prosecutors say, it's lacking when it comes to the law.
In a response filed Wednesday with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, lead prosecutor Jonathan Tukel said the appeal "utterly failed" to prove one of its principal arguments, came up empty on relevant, supporting case law and included at least one "strange argument."
Odeh, whose case has been championed by Palestinian and Islamist groups throughout the country, was convicted by a federal jury in Detroit last November of lying on immigration forms in 2004 in order to become a naturalized citizen. She claimed she never had been arrested, detained or convicted despite serving 10 years in an Israeli prison after being convicted in two 1969 Jerusalem bombings, one of which killed two college students at a grocery store.
She argued that rulings by U.S. District Judge Gershwin A. Drain gutted the defense "at its core" and gave Odeh a "faux trial." He ruled that prosecutors had to prove Odeh knew her statements were false when she made them. The defense wanted a "specific intent" threshold, which would have required proof that the false statements were willful efforts to break the law.
The ruling meant it didn't matter why Odeh lied, just that she was aware she was lying in filling out the immigration forms and during her interview with an immigration officer.
Because intent was not a factor, Drain did not let Odeh testify about claims she was tortured in Israeli custody or present an expert witness who would testify that Odeh's false statements were the product of post-traumatic stress shutting out painful memories. But when she took the stand, Odeh testified that she simply misunderstood the questions about whether she had a criminal record. She thought it only applied to her time in the United States. If she understood it meant "ever," she would have disclosed her Israeli convictions, she testified.
"It is a strange argument indeed which asserts that Odeh's defense was impaired because she [was] not allowed to present an expert who would have contradicted Odeh's own testimony," Tukel wrote.
Odeh's appeal asked the appellate court to reduce her 18-month sentence to the five weeks she already spent in jail. Appellate courts simply can't do that, Tukel wrote.
The sentence was fair, especially considering Judge Drain's determination that Odeh deliberately violated orders to keep political issues out of the case, lied during her testimony, and did participate previously in a terrorist attack.
The case wasn't about politics, Drain said at the sentencing hearing, but "about honesty and being truthful and saying the right thing under oath. It's about someone coming into the country illegally and not being truthful about it."
Read the entire prosecution brief here. For more, see the Investigative Project on Terrorism's five-part video series on Odeh's case called "Spinning a Terrorist Into a Victim" and the post-conviction epilogue.