Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Attorney representing terror suspect getting help

DENVER — The attorney representing a Colorado man at the center of a terror probe into an alleged train bombing plot plans to add lawyers to his team after a judge questioned his federal court experience.

Arthur Folsom, attorney for Najibullah Zazi, has been handling divorces, drunk driving and criminal cases over the past 11 years in Colorado state courts but has never tried a federal case.

Folsom is "taking the appropriate steps to make sure his client gets experienced, seasoned counsel," Wendy Aiello, a spokeswoman for Folsom, said Tuesday.

Though Zazi is charged only with lying to the government, law enforcement officials said he may have been plotting with others to detonate backpack bombs on New York trains.

Zazi and his 53-year-old father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, were arrested Saturday in Denver. Ahmad Wais Afzali, 37, was arrested in New York, where he is an imam at a mosque in Queens.

Folsom's involvement came when Zazi, at the suggestion of an acquaintance, walked into the attorney's office last week, worried that the FBI might want to talk to him, Aiello said.

Authorities say Zazi had been alerted by friends that federal agents and city police had raided their apartments on Sept. 14 and asked about him. Zazi, accompanied by Folsom, voluntarily underwent three days of FBI questioning before he his arrest.

Aiello said Folsom has met with some attorneys and will make an announcement soon.

On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer questioned whether Folsom could represent Zazi in federal court, where rules and procedures are different than in state courts.

"You cannot enter an appearance unless you're a member in good standing in this district court," Shaffer told Folsom.

Folsom replied that he is in good standing but hadn't updated his information.

The court clerk's office said it was unable to immediately find Folsom in its system because he had never had a case there.

"Federal terrorism cases are not for beginners," said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor who teaches at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Aiello said Folsom has no regrets about how the case has been handled so far.

"Given the situation and the information, Mr. Folsom and his client meeting with the FBI was the correct position," she said.

Folsom faces a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge in northern Colorado. Aiello says a guest on a boat was cited for possession and Folsom faces a charge because he owns the boat where the marijuana was found. A pretrial conference is set for Oct. 13.

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