Imam Umar was sentenced yesterday to one year of
home confinement. He will not have to use an ankle bracelet; he can leave his
home for work and medical visits, and for religious reasons. He was also
fined $100. He is planning to appeal the sentence.
No crime was committed by Imam Umar, other than the
crime of being Black and Muslim. There was, however, a crime committed by the
government against Imam Umar; the sentence,
therefore, while relatively light, is nonetheless unjust.
This case is a perfect example of what Malcolm X talked about: how in this
country, "they make the criminal into the victim and the victim into the
During the court session at which he was sentenced, Imam Umar
gave a wonderful speech that moved everyone in the room. He talked about the
slanderous article in the Wall Street Journal and the attacks made against
him by Senator Schumer and Governor Pataki. He talked about the prosecution's
refusal to return the belongings they took from his homes and about how, when
he was arrested on the gun charge, he spent four days in jail because the
prosecutor told the judge he was a dangerous man. While in jail, he was
denied his medicine and the kind of food he is required to eat as an observant
Muslim. When he left the jail, they told him that they had lost his clothes,
and so he was forced to go out in the cold wearing a thin jail garment.
During his speech, he pulled the jail clothes from a bag and gave them back
to the federal prosecutor.
Umar talked about his upbringing and the decisions
he had made to live in pursuit of peace, justice, and prosperity, which he
described as core values of his religion. He stated that he could not accept
wearing an ankle bracelet on home arrest; he views this as a throwback to
slavery, and he could not do this in front of his young children. He
described the trauma his youngest child experienced when his home was invaded
by the New York City Police and the fact that the child still has nightmares
Umar talked about how some of his co-workers, some
other Muslims, and some friends abandoned him because they became afraid
after he was attacked. He told the court how members of Bethlehem Neighbors
for Peace rallied behind him.
Before pronouncing the sentence, the judge talked for a long time. He related
how Imam Umar bought the shotgun and the rifle, the
subjects of the trial, about 20 years ago while living on a farm in Orange County. The judge
also had lived in that area. The judge asked Imam Umar
if he remembered the case of the correction officers from the area who had been fired from their jobs. Imam Umar replied that he did remember, and that the officers
were fired for being members of the KKK. The judge asked if Umar bought the guns as protection from them. Umar said he had not; he bought them mainly for
The judge went over how Umar had turned his life
around after being arrested as a teenager. He mentioned that he had committed
no crimes during the intervening 38 years, that he had raised a family of
nine children who had turned out to be exemplary people. He pointed to Imam Umar's fatherhood and family as examples to be emulated.
Judge Patterson also talked about the Wall Street Journal article, which the
prosecution wanted him to take into consideration in deciding the sentence.
The judge explained that he believes the New York Times recently took the
Pope's comments about Muslims out of context and that he had no doubt that
the Wall Street Journal had done the same with Imam Umar.
He mentioned that the Wall Street Journal had reported that Imam Umar "called the 9/11 hijackers martyrs," but
that Umar had immediately corrected the Journal,
stating that what he had actually said was that the 9/11 hijackers
"considered themselves martyrs." Therefore, the judge refused to
take the article into consideration.
The federal courts have sentencing guidelines that are not absolute, but a
judge must cite reasons to divert from them. Apparently, this judge did not
follow the guidelines; he seemed to try very hard to find mitigating
circumstances. But what he appeared to take into consideration above all
other factors was Umar's character, his history of
working for the Department of Corrections, and his value as a father, as a husband,
and as a member of his community. In this regard, he mentioned the letters
that many of us wrote in support of Imam Umar. The
judge went through these letters one by one, explaining who had written them:
"This one is from a neighbor; this one from an MD; this one from a
Judge Patterson appeared to have a difficult time stating the sentence. He
held his head in his hand and looked away while pronouncing the sentence.
The $100 fine was clearly a slap in the face of the prosecutor. The home
confinement, at least, is keeping Umar out of jail
and with his family.
Ron Kuby has 10 days to file an appeal. Imam Umar wants to continue to push for the justice that he
deserves. He intends to sue the NYPD and others for the home invasions and to
continue his fight for justice.
Please see the Imam Umar Defense Committee web page
at nepajac.org/ImamUmar.htm (to be updated soon).