Suspect said to train children for school shootings released on bail

by WorldTribune Staff, August 14, 2018

A judge’s decision to grant bail to the five suspects who kept 11 children at a squalid compound in remote New Mexico has sparked outrage.

State District Judge Sarah C. Backus on Aug. 13 denied a request from prosecutors to hold the five without bond.

The compound in New Mexico where 11 children were found living in squalid conditions. / AP

Prosecutors said one of the suspects, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, provided some of the children with firearms training – including tactical skills such as “speed loading” guns and firing while in motion.

Law enforcement said a child associated with the group had reported that they were preparing to conduct school shootings.

The judge’s ruling allows the defendants to be released pending further hearings on conditions, including that they each post an unsecured $20,000 bond, wear GPS devices to track their movements and not leave Taos County without permission, The Washington Post reported.

“The state alleges that there was a big plan afoot, but the state hasn’t shown to my satisfaction, by clear and convincing evidence, what that plan was,” Judge Backus said.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez issued a statement after the hearing saying she “strongly disagreed” with the outcome and the judge’s decision.

“Unfortunately, it highlights how extreme the New Mexico Supreme Court has been in dictating pretrial release for all kinds of dangerous criminals,” the governor said.

Ryan Cangiolosi, chairman of the Republican Party of New Mexico, said the decision to release “suspected terrorists” into the community has put the people of the state at risk.

“By releasing these suspects without even requiring them to post bail, Judge Backus has put people in danger and created the risk that they could flee and harm other children and communities as well,” Cangiolosi said in a statement. “If New Mexico Democratic Party leaders are serious about keeping our state safe, they should join me in denouncing Judge Backus and the incredible failure of leadership and judgment demonstrated by her terrible decision.”

Deputy District Attorney Timothy R. Hasson had urged Backus to keep the defendants in jail. He said the evidence suggested the group was on a dangerous mission.

“It’s clear from a number of the elements of the evidence that the family as a whole was strongly anti-government in terms of their actions of moving here to New Mexico,” Hasson said.

The 11 children found at the compound were placed in state custody.

FBI Special Agent Travis Taylor testified on Aug. 13 that he questioned two boys, aged 13 and 15, who had been at the compound when law enforcement raided it. Taylor said the boys told him that adults there were training them with firearms and that the group ultimately intended to attack law enforcement or education or financial institutions.

Defendants Lucas Allen Morton, 40; Jany Leveille, 35; Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40; Hujrah Wahhaj, 37; and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35; appeared at the hearing before Backus. They each face 11 counts of child abuse while Siraj Ibn Wahhaj faces an additional count alleging custodial interference.

All of the defendants and the children are relatives of a well-known Brooklyn imam, Siraj Wahhaj. Siraj Ibn Wahhaj is his son, and Hurjah and Subhannah are his daughters.

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