Prosecutors deny right to counsel for Ahmad Khan Rahami, suspect in Seaside Park and Chelsea bombings
Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Union County Prosecutor’s Office continue to improperly deny criminal defendant Ahmad Khan Rahami the right to an attorney, the ACLU-NJ said today. The ACLU-NJ is working with public defenders to secure them access to their client. To ensure the protection of the right of counsel, until Rahami’s federal public defenders are able to represent him, the ACLU-NJ is serving as Rahami’s legal counsel on federal charges.
“The right of an accused person to have an attorney is a fundamental, undeniable right, regardless of the charges,” said ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Alexander Shalom. “It’s extremely disturbing that Mr. Rahami’s lawyers have not been able to verify their client’s health condition, including his level of consciousness. No one’s interests are protected when law enforcement attempts to circumvent the constitution.”
Rahami has been in Newark’s University Hospital since shortly after authorities took him into custody, and according to media reports he is unconscious. The Union County Prosecutor has prevented his local public defender from checking on his client’s condition, based on arguments that Rahami’s reported lack of consciousness means the arrest warrant has not been executed. The U.S. Attorney General’s Office maintains that Rahami is not yet in federal custody and therefore he is not yet entitled to legal counsel.
“It is outrageous that Mr. Rahami has been in custody for a week yet has been denied the right to have an attorney visit him to confirm his condition and protect his constitutional rights,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer. “Mr. Rahami, like all criminal defendants, has a right to a lawyer. Denying a defendant the right to counsel violates the Constitution and needlessly sacrifices civil liberties in the name of national security. ”
Rahami has been charged by the Union County Prosecutor’s Office and U.S. attorneys in New Jersey and New York with crimes stemming from the Sept. 17 bombings and his other activities.