Convicted terrorist calls WFAA reporter from prison

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on March 19, 2013 at 10:10 PM

NEWS 8 EXCLUSIVE

DALLAS –– Three-and-a-half years after being convicted of plotting to blow up the Fountain Place office tower downtown, Hosam Smadi called News 8 from a federal prison in Indiana to profess his innocence, arguing that he was “psychologically tortured” by the FBI. 

The evidence against Smadi is overwhelming. He thought he was remotely detonating a fake truck bomb parked at the Fountain Place building in an attempt to kill thousands. Smadi plead guilty and is currently serving a 24-year sentence. 

Smadi told Schechter on the phone that he confessed to the crime only after being "psychologically tortured" in solitary confinement and "manipulated" into participating in the mock bombing.

He’s now serving as his own attorney and recently filed paperwork to overturn his prison sentence, which he is serving in Terre Haute, Indiana. 

Former US Attorney John Ratcliffe says it’s common for a federal prisoner to claim his or her innocence, but it rarely leads a jury to overturn a case.

"What Mr. Smadi is claiming is claimed by literally every federally incarcerated prisoner,” said Ratcliffe, now a partner with Ashcroft, Sutton & Ratcliffe.

The conditions in Terre Haute are the harshest allowed under federal law. There, Smadi is housed with about 200 men, mostly Arab Muslims all convicted on terror charges. He lives in what's called the Communications Management Unit with other high-profile terrorists, like John Walker Lindh, known as the American Taliban. 

All of his outside communication is severely restricted, managed and monitored live, in real-time.       

"It's the most serve, the most harsh, the most unpleasant conditions allowed under American law,” Ratcliffe said.         

When he called Schechter, Smadi said the call would last fifteen minutes. But after five minutes, he was cut off mid-sentence. The Federal Bureau of Prisons told News 8 Smadi was authorized to call Schechter, but was not authorized to be interviewed.          

When Schechter started asking questions of Smadi, the person monitoring the call cut it off. Ratcliffe says the government has a standard for cutting a prisoner’s communication.

"Presents a substantial risk of death or bodily injury to the American public. Now, again, I didn't hear the conversation but that is the standard by which those communications are to be monitored,” Ratcliffe said.                

Schechter has previously requested an interview with Smadi but been denied by the prison. This phone call was unplanned. Smadi has also sent Schechter four packets of information.  Mostly they are lengthy claims of innocence, despite the evidence against him, and statements of his deepening devotion to Islam.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com

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