"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Trial of Would-Be Anti-Masonic Terrorist Delayed Again


The Associated Press reported today that the trial of Samy Hamzeh in Milwaukee has been delayed again. Hamzeh was originally arrested by Federal agents in January 2016 for plotting a mass shooting terrorist attack at the Humphrey Masonic Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He discussed his plans in detail and purchased two fully automatic machine guns from Federal informants and agents.

Unfortunately, the AP deliberately chose language to paper over the anti-Masonic motivation for Hamzeh's plot by choosing their words very carefully:

MILWAUKEE — The trial for a man accused of plotting a mass shooting in defense of Islam at a Masonic temple in downtown Milwaukee has been delayed.
The trial was set to begin Wednesday in federal court in Milwaukee, but prosecutors have appealed a judge’s decisions to exclude evidence...
Nice try. Hamzeh was NOT "plotting a mass shooting in defense of Islam." Freemasons had not—and were not—attacking, insulting or besmirching Islam in any way, shape or form. But today's AP story lede has attempted to ascribe some onus onto the Masonic fraternity instead of the would-be terrorist. 



Hamzeh's actual plan was to open fire with multiple automatic weapons deliberately at a large Masonic event in the Humphrey Masonic Center (photo) and bar the doors to prevent escapes. His motivation was a conspiracy theory fueled by fundamentalist and extremist ideology that brands Masons as enemies of the Muslim faith. 

That's a big shift in interpretation from the AP story published on Tuesday of this week. At least that one explained the crackpot theory that Hamzeh was espousing - that Freemasons were somehow secretly supporting the terrorist group ISIS in order to discredit Islam in world opinion. Without seeing the actual material from the case, it's a pretty good guess that this absurd notion was tied in with the standard "Jewish-Masonic Worldwide Conspiracy Theory.®" 

But a trial jury will never hear a whiff of it.

Hamzeh is claiming entrapment by Federal agents, a defense tactic that almost never succeeds. But because numerous terrorism charges sought by government prosecutors have been thrown out by the judge, a jury will never hear many of their actual recorded conversations in which he discussed his motives for wanting to buy fully automatic machine guns. Despite Hamzeh's fully documented conversations in which he detailed his planned slaughter of Masons and their families, the charges have been reduced merely to the illegal acquisition of machine guns. 

From Tuesday's story, 'Man accused of plan to attack Milwaukee temple goes on trial':
Attorneys for 26-year-old Samy Hamzeh plan to argue that the FBI entrapped their client, who they say never owned a gun, has no criminal record, and was incapable of mass murder. The FBI has said their agents thwarted an act of terrorism when they arrested Hamzeh in January 2016.
The Journal Sentinel reports that Hamzeh, an American citizen who spent his childhood in Jordan, was ultimately only charged with possessing two machine guns and a silencer, all of which he bought from undercover FBI agents who had informants set up the deal.

[snip]

The case against Hamzeh began when a longtime friend identified in court records only as Steve, who was in the country illegally, told FBI agents in September 2015 that Hamzeh talked of going to Egypt to get a gun and terrorist training. That’s when the FBI planted a professional informant, identified only as Mike, to work at the same restaurant as Hamzeh and Steve, according to court documents.
Mike introduced Hamzeh to YouTube videos espousing the belief that Masons secretly support the Islamic State, which through its terrorism was discrediting all Muslims, according to court records. That’s how Hamzeh and the informants settled on Milwaukee’s Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Temple as a target. Defense attorneys argue the FBI induced Hamzeh to buy weapons by offering them at cheaper price and after months of indoctrination.
Mike recorded his conversations with Hamzeh, but not all are being allowed as evidence. U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper, who will oversee the trial, ruled that some were prejudicial.

Included among the recorded conversations with Mike and Steve are Hamzeh’s cancellation of the attack after he said he consulted with two imams who told him what he was planning was wrong.
But a magistrate judge who heard a request from Hamzeh to be released on bail in 2017 did not see that conversation as evidence that Hamzeh wasn’t really committed to violence.
“It comes down to this,” wrote then-U.S. Magistrate Judge David E. Jones. “It should not take the spiritual guidance of two religious leaders to dissuade a person from committing mass murder.”
U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper 
(Photo: Journal Sentinel)


Even this AP story eliminates almost all of the evidence being excluded from the trial because of court rulings by U.S. District Judge Pamela Pepper (photo).


Reporter Bruce Vielmetti of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a far more detailed account of the legal battles that have been waged to throw out all of the anti-Masonic terrorism charges against Hamzeh, or even any mention of his planned attack. 


From his article, "Entrapment defense in 2016 Masonic Center shooting plot will have to wait as prosecutors appeal judge's rulings" :
In pre-trial rulings, [Judge] Pepper barred prosecutors' use of about 70 statements or discussions between Hamzeh and the informants.

Motive is not an element of the crimes, so Hamzeh's early talk of going to Israel is not relevant to him buying the guns, Pepper found, though his comments about wanting to take guns from Israeli soldiers and spraying other people with bullets can be admitted as possibly relevant to his desire to obtain a machine gun.
Much of Hamzeh and the informants' chilling, detailed discussions about how an attack on the Masonic Center would take place will not be allowed either. Pepper again found them irrelevant to buying the guns and highly prejudicial.
In a 51-page order, Pepper lays out, passage by passage, which of more than 100 exchanges between Hamzeh and the informants will be admissible and which will not.

For example, Hamzeh's statements about going to Israel to fight with Hamas against Jews or how his martyrdom might inspire others don't help prove whether he was inclined to get a machine gun in Milwaukee, Pepper found, and excluded them.
But she allowed Hamzeh's talk of taking Kalashnikov rifles from Jewish soldiers and spraying innocent people because it's arguably related to an interest in machine guns.
She also excluded testimony from a government expert about the Middle East and whether conspiracy theories about the Masons exist in that region.
According to court records, at some point Hamzeh watched YouTube videos espousing the belief that Masons secretly support the Islamic State, which through its terrorism was discrediting all Muslims, which purportedly led Hamzeh and the informants to settle on the Milwaukee center as a target.
Hamzeh and the informants discussed who would be shot first, whether children would be spared and other details. But those talks "raise the risk that the jury will convict the defendant for his cold, calculating and chilling words, and not because he possessed the charged items," Pepper ruled, and blocked them from use as evidence at trial...
I'm reminded of a situation many years ago. My wife and I were confronted very late one evening by a drunken driver who leapt from his car, pointed a pistol into my face, and screamed over and over that he was going to blow my head off, before suddenly jumping back into his truck and driving off. When I attempted to file charges against him after identifying his vehicle, a weary cop shook his head and said, "You'd have had a better case if he pulled the trigger." I always pitied some future convenience store clerk who handed that guy the wrong change one night when he might be on a similar bender, similarly armed, and in a similarly unhinged frame of mind. 

Let's all hope Mr. Hamzeh has sufficiently learned not to believe moronic conspiracy theories from the Internet the next time he spots a square and compass on a Masonic hall, because it seems that any outcome of this watered down trial will result in little actual punishment. Or deterrent for anyone similarly inspired.

3 comments:

  1. I am a resident of Milwaukee and formerly attended lodge meetings in the Humphrey Center before it was sold. In fact, I had just recently been installed Worshipful Master when Hamzeh’s foiled plot first hit the news, and I was at the Humphrey Center the very next night to assist another lodge in initiating 6 new Entered Apprentices. We remembered Fortitude that night. In September of the same year, my lodge made an open invitation to every Muslim and Mason willing to show up to enjoy a meal and learn from each other, and collectively we made some decent headway in building a more peaceful Milwaukee.

    Whatever the outcome of Hamzeh’s case may eventually be, I sincerely hope that justice is done, and this incident is not exploited by anyone as an excuse to characterize an entire group of people as some sort of monolithic boogeyman, whether it be Muslims or Masons.

    Not that it justifies anything Hamzeh is accused of, but Freemasonry does have an Islamophobia problem. That’s half the reason why I organized that lodge visit. I’ve witnessed far too many Masons attacking, insulting, and besmirching Islam and its adherents in any way possible and on a regular basis. I’ve listened to a brother say to my face that he wouldn’t trust a Muslim brother of his own lodge. I’ve listened to Past Masters declare they would walk out of the lodge if a Qur’an were to be placed on the Masonic altar. I’ve seen members of this fraternity, which purports to favor brotherly love over prejudice, instead spread hate, fear, and slander against Muslims on social media, apparently either ignorant of the existence of their Muslim Masonic brethren or too hateful to care. These Masons don’t need ISIS to try to discredit Islam, they just do it themselves. Islamophobia may not be the official position of any Grand Lodge, but you’ve got to be either in denial, not very well traveled, or blind if you think it doesn’t happen.

    Furthermore, assuming the allegations against Hamzeh are factual, it would mean he’s no more typical an example of an observant Muslim than David Duke is a typical example of a Christian. Islam strictly forbids violence except in cases of self defense, especially lethal violence. So-called “Islamic” terrorist groups know this, and they seek out individuals for recruitment who are as ignorant as possible of the Holy Qur’an and the canonical hadiths. Seventy legitimate scholars of Islam from three different nations united to condemn violent extremism and terrorism in a fatwa issued just last year. There is nothing “fundamentalist” about terrorism, and terrorism has no religion.

    Freemasons and Muslims are both woefully misunderstood groups, yet share common enemies in the form of terrorists and conspiracy theorists. Insulating ourselves from any group that is different in some way only exacerbates fear and mistrust. The only cure for ignorance is education, and the only hope for bridging the divide between Masons and Muslims is to take opportunities—or better yet, create opportunities!—to meet and learn from each other.

    To any Mason reading this, if you have concerns about Muslims in your area, I urge you to visit the nearest mosque to *politely* ask questions and answer theirs. Worshipful Masters, invite members of the Muslim community to visit your lodges. Grand Lodges, get involved and sponsor those visitations. Muslims are your neighbors and you are theirs, so learn what they’re like and show them the best example you can muster of what a good Mason is like. Offer your hand in friendship and you will be amazed at the hospitality returned to you.

    Because the day that Freemasons and Muslims become neighbors who mutually trust each other is the day that no one has to worry about someone like Samy Hamzeh anymore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While your concerns are noted, this story has been limping along now for three and a half years. Apart from the occasional moronic Facebook response or ill-conceived potshot from a sideliner, I haven't witnessed widespread 'Islamophobia' going on in the Masonic lodges I've visited, and you can scarcely make the claim I'm not well-traveled or that I'm blind. But your experience may very well be different from mine.

      Ill-informed people can be found anywhere, lodges included. But the overwhelming majority of Masons I've encountered don't need preemptive scolding to not pre-judge Islamic believers. While your message is a worthwhile one, in your rush to get ahead of what you imply is a broad problem, don't be as guilty of painting in broad brush strokes as you allege others to be. The notion that "terrorism has no religion" is absurd on its face. Of COURSE it can, and often does. Any twisting of ANY religious philosophy on Earth can be used to fuel fanaticism under the wrong circumstances, and to ignore the motives and ideology specifically of Islamic terrorism is to be just as blind as you accuse others of being.

      Terrorists, extremists and unhinged kooks are dangerous no matter WHAT they happen to have rattling in their heads as motivation. But it is foolish and irresponsible for both Masons and law enforcement to be unaware of or ignore the most common extremist ideologies that are strongly anti-Masonic and have a regular track record of acting on those beliefs.

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  2. I've witnessed the Islamaphobia in and around Lodges. I've watched as a room full of Masters and GL members grumble so much at the term, "Liberal Arts" that a PGM had to come in and remind them that the Liberal Arts was a core part of our Fraternity and that it had nothing to do with politics.

    ReplyDelete

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