A man accused of misrepresenting himself as an attorney to clients seeking legal help from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has a history of brushes with the law, court records show.
Morris J. Days, who is being sued in federal court for fraudulently representing himself as an attorney, was found guilty of several misdemeanor alcohol-related charges in Virginia in the early 2000s and served time in Philadelphia jails in the 1990s, court records obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism show.
Days is a defendant in a lawsuit filed Nov. 18 in federal district court in the District of Columbia alleging he defrauded Muslims who had contacted CAIR's Virginia branch office for assistance with their legal problems.
Also named as defendants in the suit are the Council on American-Islamic Relations Action Network, Inc., eight senior CAIR officials and two businesses described as holding companies for CAIR-owned real estate.
The lawsuit alleges that beginning around June 2006, CAIR-Virginia employed Days as its "resident attorney" and "manager" of its civil rights department. Four plaintiffs – Rene Arturo Lopez, Aquilla A.D. Turner, Mohammed Barakatullah Abdussalaam and Bayenah Nur – claim they paid money to Days for legal assistance that they never received.
The lawsuit alleges that CAIR officials knew at least by November 2007 that Days "fraudulently obtained money from CAIR clients" when CAIR had a policy of providing free pro-bono legal services. By March 2008, CAIR knew that Days had not attended law school and was not an attorney, the lawsuit says. Rather than alerting clients, the lawsuit claims that internal CAIR emails show the defendants took "affirmative steps to conceal it from the victims including the plaintiffs."
A spokesman for CAIR's national office in Washington, Ibrahim Hooper, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, hung up the phone when asked for comment. Days could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit says CAIR terminated Days in March, telling his clients he had been an independent contractor and that they should seek restitution directly from Days.
Several weeks later, "it became clear to CAIR that some of its Muslim clients would cause damage to CAIR's reputation," prompting CAIR to offer full or partial restitution "to some of the more outspoken and threatening clients but not all," the lawsuit says.
CAIR issued a "misleading" Sept. 9, 2008 press release saying Days had been immediately terminated upon discovery of the fraud, and that clients would be offered restitution, the lawsuit says.
But CAIR officials did not notify government authorities of Days' alleged misconduct, the lawsuit says. It also alleges that CAIR knew Days had "defrauded at least 30 clients" by accepting funds under false pretenses and that Days had represented more than 100 CAIR clients, even though he was not licensed to practice law.
The plaintiffs in the case say they had asked CAIR for help in matters ranging from a divorce proceeding to employment discrimination.
It is not known whether any CAIR officials were aware of Days' record. However, a search of public databases shows he has a court record dating back to the mid 1990s, when he served time in Philadelphia jails, records show.
A spokesman for the Philadelphia County jails, Robert Eskind, confirmed that Days had been an inmate, but said he did not have immediate access to information about the charges because Days' files are archived and no longer listed in the jail's computer system.
In Fairfax County, Va., Days pleaded guilty in 2001 to separate charges of driving while intoxicated and driving on a revoked or suspended license, court records show. In 2002, also in Fairfax County, he pleaded guilty to failing to stop at the scene of a crime and to another DWI offense.
Days is listed in Loudon County, Va., court records as having failed to show up for hearings in June and December 2002 on charges of drinking in public and public swearing/intoxication. He was found guilty in absentia of those offenses, court records show.
Days, described by the lawyer for the plaintiffs as a convert to Islam, also is listed in public records as using the middle initial "L." The date of birth for the Morris Days in the court records matches a date of birth that Days provided CAIR on a form he used to register as a volunteer, which was obtained by IPT.
The lawyer for the plaintiffs is David Yerushalmi, founder of a group called Society of Americans for National Existence, or SANE. SANE's Web site says its mission includes a "strong commitment to preserve and to protect America's Judeo-Christian content and moral grounding" and protection of "our Homeland against the foreign aggressor, including those foreigners who have penetrated our borders."
On Nov. 23, an associate of Yerushalmi, retired U.S. Air Force investigator Dave Gaubatz, served notice of the lawsuit on CAIR executive director Nihad Awad and other CAIR officials at CAIR's annual national fundraising banquet in Crystal City, Va.
Gaubatz served the papers to Awad while he stood on stage as CAIR board member, and North Carolina State Sen. Larry Shaw, was speaking. Yerushalmi's group captured the moment on video and posted it online.
CAIR is controversial because of its links to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. In addition, a number of its past employees and fundraisers have had brushes with the law.
In Dallas last Monday, jurors returned guilty verdicts on all counts against five former officials of an Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, for providing millions of dollars in support to Hamas. At trial, prosecutors introduced into evidence exhibits showing CAIR and Nihad Awad as members of the Palestine Committee, a group created by the Muslim Brotherhood to help Hamas.