Defendants protest trial delays in New Mexico compound raid

Apr 7, 2022, 3:03 PM | Updated: 5:51 pm

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A second defendant is invoking the right to a speedy trial in the 2018 raid on a squalid family compound in northern New Mexico that uncovered the remains of a 3-year-old boy and led to charges of kidnapping, firearms and terrorism charges, defense attorneys confirmed Thursday.

Subhanah Wahhaj, one of five defendants who have been incarcerated since the raid, gave birth to a child during her initial months in federal custody. She denies the charges against her and this week notified federal prosecutors and a judge in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque of her right to a trial within a reasonable amount of time after arrest.

“We filed the speedy-trial notice because it’s been (nearly) four years, and based on the evidence in the case we don’t think our client belongs in jail any more,” said Ryan Villa, a court-appointed attorney for Wahhaj.

Wahhaj was arrested in August 2018 along with her husband and three other adults from an extended family in a law enforcement raid at a ramshackle encampment in the remote desert surrounded by berms of used tires with an adjacent firing range. Authorities were searching for a sickly 3-year-old who had been reported missing by his mother in Georgia.

Sheriff’s deputies and state agents initially found 11 hungry children and a small arsenal of ammunition and guns. After days of searching, they recovered the decomposed remains of the 3-year-old in an underground tunnel.

Trial preparations have been largely suspended without a start date as the court addresses mental health concerns about four defendants. A new court filing indicates three defendants have been found mentally competent to stand trial — Subhanah Wahhaj, sister Hujrah Wahhaj and Haitian national Jany Leveille.

Evaluation and possible treatment is pending for Lucas Morton, the husband of Subhanah.

Subhanah also is the mother of four children taken into state custody during the 2018 raid.

Authorities have said the deceased child, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, suffered from untreated disabilities as father Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and his partner Leveille performed daily prayer rituals over him — even as he cried and foamed at the mouth. Authorities also said Leveille believed medication suppressed the group’s Muslim beliefs.

Forensic specialists determined the child died several months prior to the recovery of his body.

A grand jury indictment alleges Leveille and her partner instructed people at the compound to be prepared to engage in jihad and die as martyrs, and that one more relative was invited to bring money and firearms.

All five defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and providing material support to each other as potential terrorists by crossing state lines with firearms and training at the New Mexico compound.

The defendants have denied all charges. Defense attorneys have said their clients would not be facing terrorism-related charges if they were not Muslim.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj also has protested trial delays.

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Defendants protest trial delays in New Mexico compound raid