Amalia compound

DA: NNM compound defendants planned to attack Georgia hospital

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 8/26/18

A motion to review a controversial Taos District Court decision to grant bail for five defendants arrested at a compound in Northern New Mexico reveals new details regarding the still uncharged allegations …

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Amalia compound

DA: NNM compound defendants planned to attack Georgia hospital

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A motion to review a controversial Taos District Court ruling to grant bail for five defendants arrested at a compound in Northern New Mexico this month reveals new details regarding the allegation they were training children to carry out armed attacks on government institutions.

One of their targets was Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, according to the motion filed Friday (Aug. 24) by the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Taos.

The hospital is the largest in Georgia, and the primary emergency care facility for residents of Atlanta.

Jany Leveille, a Haitian defendant who was taken into custody by immigration officers the day after Judge Sarah Backus ruled she and four co-defendants could be released, was allegedly unhappy with treatment she and her mother had received at the medical facility.

A specific target, however, was not mentioned by prosecutors at an Aug. 13 pretrial detention hearing. In her ruling, Backus said prosecutors had failed to show sufficient evidence the defendants would pose a serious threat to Taos County if released. She cited a lack of detail regarding the alleged attacks, as well as a lack of focus on the actual charges the five adults faced: 11 counts of child abuse related to living conditions the children were subjected to at the compound just north of Amalia near the Colorado border.

But the evidence in Friday’s motion adds new layers to the allegations of violent intent, which were first alluded to by Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe and later emerged in the original motions to hold the five defendants until trial.

Prosecutors initially cited a conversation one of the rescued children had with a foster parent, in which they allegedly said they were being trained to carry out “school shootings.”

State prosecutors Tim Hasson and John Lovelace cited several pieces of evidence in support of the uncharged allegations at the Aug. 13 hearing, including a guide on combat training, an "arsenal" of weapons found at the compound and testimony from an FBI agent, who said two of the children confirmed they had been trained to carry out shootings.

Charges have still not been filed related to those pieces of evidence, but Hasson wrote in Friday’s motion that they still were valid, relevant exhibits for the judge to consider when determining the dangerousness of the defendants, noting that the court can take into account a “defendant's prior conduct, charged or uncharged.”

As for the state’s purported lack of focus on the child abuse charges filed at that point in the case, Hasson said the judge had approved search warrants for the investigation and was already aware of evidence investigators uncovered related to the alleged abuse.

Prosecutors held their focus on the allegations of the alleged attacks in Friday’s motion, which contains new interviews with the children taken into protective custody at the compound.

According to the 13-page document, they said Leveille and four other adults who lived there – Lucas Morton, 40, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40, and Wahhaj’s sisters, Hujrah, 37, and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35 – had more than once expressed their intentions to die as martyrs “in Jihad.”

The five adults were arrested after law enforcement raided their makeshift dwelling near the Colorado border to search for a missing toddler Aug. 3. Eleven children, whom investigators said were found starving and clothed in rags, were taken into protective custody during the raid. Defensive structures, several firearms and a shooting range were located at the property where they lived.

The missing child, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, allegedly kidnapped by his father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, in Clayton County, Georgia last year, was found buried inside a 100-foot tunnel at the compound. The 40-year-old and Leveille, his wife, allegedly withheld epilepsy medication the boy had been prescribed to control severe seizures.

According to an electronic journal Leveille kept at the compound, the child died Dec. 24, 2017 during an Islamic ritual the adults believed would dispel “demons and devils” from the boy’s body. Both defendants were charged with two first-degree felonies this week related to the boy’s death.

Friday’s motion notes new entries that suggest Leveille  played a role as a kind of spiritual guide for the others in their plans to carry out attacks.

Investigators say Leveille intended to convert "corrupt" individuals and institutions to her beliefs, with plans to target "the military, big businesses, CIA, teachers/schools.”

If they encountered resistance, she wrote that her followers were to attack with firearms when she gave a signal.

The DA's office quoted another document recovered during a search of the compound Aug. 6, titled “Phases of a Terrorist Attack,” that included instructions for “the one time terrorist.”

The motion also notes that Morton allegedly sent a letter to a brother of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, asking him to come join the group in New Mexico so he, too, could “die as a martyr.” The letter, which was also referenced at the Aug. 13 hearing, requested that the man withdraw all of his money from his bank account and bring along firearms to add to a weapons stockpile investigators said they found during the raid.

But Hasson ultimately argued that the court already had sufficient evidence to determine the defendants posed a serious danger to the community without the new details released on Friday.

A detention hearing has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 29) in Taos District Court before Judge Jeff McElroy.

This is a developing story.

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