February 02, 2010
Rifqa Bary wins another round
***Sticky until noonish***Scroll past for newer posts***
The Ohio court overseeing Rifqa Bary's case convened yesterday to hear an emergency motion by CAIR attorney Omar Tarazi attempting to circumvent a counselor's finding that Rifqa should be allowed to talk with the Florida couple, Blake and Beverly Lorenz, who took her in last summer after her flight from an allegedly abusive home in Ohio. The counselor recommended that Rifqa be allowed unsupervised telephone contact with the Lorenzs.
Notwithstanding the hyperventilating by the amateur legal strategists over at Atlas Shrugs yesterday, this is yet another legal win for Rifqa and deals a stunning setback for CAIR attorney Omar Tarazi. The magistrate allowed Rifqa to have supervised conversations with the Lorenzs until Judge Gill can rule on the counselor's recommendation on Feb. 16th. The magistrate also expressed skepticism at Tarazi's attempt to back out of the deal made last month that would allow Rifqa to remain in state custody until she turns 18. The magistrate made it clear during the hearing yesterday that it is highly unlikely that Judge Gill is going to reverse her previous order securing Rifqa's dependency deal. Is it possible that the judge is going to undo everything she put into place just two weeks ago to try to salvage Tarazi's crumbling media narrative? As with any case before a judge, it is possible, but doesn't seem likely. Apart from the hearings to address the recent flurry of bizarre motions by Tarazi, who is under considerable attack from his CAIR overlords for effectively losing this case, the next regularly scheduled hearing in Rifqa's case is August 10th - Rifqa's 18th birthday.
It is indeed ironic and disappointing to see some of Rifqa's most enthusiastic supporters now parroting CAIR, demanding the removal of Rifqa's attorneys and wanting to reopen her case to flog their respective cause. It is unclear how any of this helps Rifqa, and the fact that these critics are making the exact same claims as CAIR should give them considerable pause. Given their current state of hysteria, however, that doesn't seem likely. Understand that Rifqa's attorneys have not only secured her dependency, put her on the fast track to resolve her immigration status, and begun dismantling the "cone of silence" imposed on Rifqa by the Ohio Dept. of Children and Family Services. They are continuing to work to ensure that she remains safe in her foster care placement. This, according to these critics, is an unmitigated disaster that threatens Rifqa's very existence. And their source for their "sky is falling" analysis? Meredith "Hijab" Heagney of the Columbus Dispatch, who has been one of the main media cheerleaders for Rifqa's return to the extremists in the Columbus Muslim community. Wonderful.
It also bears mentioning that it was Rifqa's Florida attorney, John Stemberger, who seems to be the focus of the wrath of these online critics, who back at the beginning of her case submitted to the court an extensive 35-page legal brief on the extremism and terrorist ties of the mosque attended by Rifqa's parents, the Noor Islamic Cultural Center. Additionally, had the case moved forward to trial, Rifqa's Ohio attorney Kort Gatterdam had submitted an extensive witness list of experts on apostasy in Islamic law and Islamic honor killings (including, by her own testimony, Phyllis Chesler, an expert on Islamic honor killings). This, according to these critics, is proof that Rifqa's attorneys failed to take into consideration the issue of apostate and honor killings in Islam, and that Rifqa's life is in immediate danger from her zombie attorneys who want to eat her brains. Um, OK??
In an effort to rebut much of the false information being circulated by these critics, Stemberger released a statement yesterday, "Correcting the Top Ten False Rumors and Misinformation about Rifqa's Attorneys and Her Legal Case":
CORRECTING THE TOP TEN FALSE RUMORS AND MISINFORMATION ABOUT RIFQA'S ATTORNEYS AND HER LEGAL CASE
By John Stemberger
February 1, 2010
It is highly unfortunate, but there are a handful of people who claim to be leading Rifqa advocates are spreading inaccurate, highly sensational and outright false information about matters surrounding Rifqa Bary, her attorneys and Rifqa's legal case. It is necessary to respond to these statements because the amount of ignorance, misinformation, and slander being spread is causing disunity and confusion among those people who really do truly love and support Rifqa and are looking for accurate information.
1) RIFQA’S DOES NOT NEED NEW LAWYERS AND SHE HAS SOME OF THE FINEST LAWYERS IN THE STATE OF OHIO REPRESENTING HER. Representing Rifqa are two legal experts, one in the area of dependency (which most lawyers have never even heard of) and one in criminal law. Kort Gatterdam is a board certified criminal defense lawyer who is well respected in the greater Columbus, Ohio Bar, partner in a major Ohio law firm and he has tried hundreds of cases before juries and judges. Angie Lloyd is a clinical law professor at Ohio State University with a long history as a child advocate and is one the country’s leading experts in the area of dependency and child immigration. The legal strategy and plan agreed to by all lawyers involved in both Florida and Ohio from the beginning has been to get Rifqa declared a “Dependent” by the state and therefore in a situation where she would never have to be forced to return to her parents or her homeland Sri Lanka unless she wanted to. The dependency status also allows her to apply for a status where she would never be forced back to Sri Lanka where she would surely be killed in time by the Muslim extremists in that country. In Ohio, a minor does not have a right to an independent lawyer at all and the state usually simply appoints a Guardian Ad Litem to represent a minor child. However, through an amazing set of providential circumstances, Rifqa was able to secure two of the finest and most well suited lawyers in Ohio to represent her and not be forced to accept a court appointed lawyer who would have been young, brand new, inexperienced and pretty laid back.
2) IF A TRIAL WERE TO TAKE PLACE, RADICAL ISLAM’S INVOLVEMENT IN RIFQA’S STORY CAN ONLY BE ADMITTED INTO EVIDENCE IF THE COURT ALLOWS IT. PERIOD! A lawyer cannot introduce anything they want into evidence unless it is within the scope of the complaint and the judge allows it. If the judge does not want it in, it does not come into evidence. And that is what the court ruled in Ohio and no amount of shouting, disagreeing or acting rebellious in court like the Muslim lawyers have in this case is going to change the judge’s ruling. Further, effective Legal Advocacy is not about being “aggressive” and shouting loudly in court. There is a common myth that a good and “tough” lawyer will be aggressive and somehow “beat up” the other lawyers in courtroom. This is the thinking of the novice who watches too many lawyer shows on TV and have no idea how a court room or the rules of evidence actually work. A lawyer can be completely silent and win a case handily while another argues loudly and looses the case outright. That's what has happened in this case. We should be thankful.
3) RIFQA DOES NOT NEED TO GO THROUGH AN ASYLUM PROCESS. Dependency is a highly specialized area of the law that most persons have never heard of and that even most lawyers have no idea about. No lawyer who understands dependency law agrees that seeking political asylum in the US makes any sense. Those that have advocated for asylum are either not lawyers and have no idea what the law says, or are simply ignorant about the dependency process. It is stunning to hear the arm chair commentators talk about what they think should happen legally when they are completely ignorant about what the law says or how courts, evidence or trials work. Rifqa's immigration status can be resolved as a dependent of the State of Ohio without any asylum claims.
4) JOHN STEMBERGER IS NOT WRITING A BOOK ON RIFQA’S STORY. One well-known blogger who attempts to give updates on Rifqa’s situation and cleverly mixes facts with an assortment of fantasy and fiction, has recently written that she has inside information from “confidential sources” that I have inked a book deal on Rifqa’s story. This is totally false and I have no interest nor any intention on writing any book on Rifqa or on her case.
5) RIFQA DOES IN FACT NEED MORE FUNDS SENT TO HER TRUST ACCOUNT. Nationally recognized Evangelist Lou Engel sent out an e-mail requesting funds for Rifqa’s Trust Fund to help pay for her legal defense as her attorneys costs are enormous. Days after this e-mail was sent out, an individual who actively attempts to give out updates and prayer requests on Rifqa’s status, sent out a public email and Facebook message stating that did not Rifqa did not need money for any purpose and that she only needed “prayer”. This was both a foolish and irresponsible statement and was in direct opposition to want Rifqa HERSELF wants! Rifqa wants and needs continued funding for both the costs associated with defending her and money to live on when she is ultimately released. Donations are still needed and can be made online or mailed to Fathima Rifqa Bary Trust c/o Michael A. O’Quinn, Trustee, 28 West Central Boulevard, Fourth Floor, Orlando, Florida 32801. Checks or money orders should be made payable to “Fathima Rifqa Bary Trust.”
6) THE RECENT MOTION FILED BY RIFQA’S PARENTS LAWYERS TO REVERSE THE DEPENDENCY AGREEMENT IS TOTALLY FRIVOLOUS AND IS NOT A MAJOR THREAT. The motion filed last week by the Bary parents lawyer and “Islamic Scholar” Omar Tarazi to undo the dependency agreement previously made in Court is a complete sham and is likely not to have any effect at all on the court. The ridiculous motion also seeks to fire all of Rifqa’s lawyers and her Guardian ad Litem. The court is likely to dismiss it at the hearing without even serious consideration and there is a 95% chance this dismissal will occur. In the highly unlikely event the court grants the parents motion there is a chance a trial could take place but an even greater chance a settlement agreement would take place again because the Bary parents lawyer appears to be completely inexperienced and inept, and has never tried a case.
7) IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO TAKE LEGAL ACTIONS THAT WILL ENSURE RIFQA’S SAFETY THAN IT IS TO TAKE ACTIONS WHICH EXPOSE RADICAL ISLAM. There are many people who want to see Rifqa undergo the risk involved with a full blown trial with the sole motive to expose radical Islam rather than to secure agreements which would guarantee that Rifqa will be safe. I am totally against radical Islam and want to see them exposed and want the power of Rifqa’s story to be heard. But not at the expense of risking Rifqa’s safety. In fact I was the one who submitted a 35 page brief on the Noor mosque to the Florida court and held a press conference to promote it and raised the concerns about the extremist elements in the Central Ohio Muslim community - information that many of these bloggers have subsequently used to make their case. I submitted it because I believed it was directly relevant for the Florida court to understand what has and continues to happen in Ohio. Had the case gone to trial in Florida, I would have worked to introduce these concerns and expert witnesses, including the direct issue of apostate killings, but would have been entirely reliant on the judge whether they would be admitted or not.
8) IN ANY LEGAL CASE, A SETTLEMENT WITH THE SAME RESULT IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN BEARING THE RISK OF A TRIAL WHERE THE ULTIMATE RESULT IS NOT IN YOUR HANDS BUT THE HANDS OF A JUDGE. An agreement properly recognized by the Court and which gives you the same result you would seek at a trial, is always a better option than a full blown trial. In a trial, the judge (no jury trial in this type case) would make the final decision. In a settlement agreement the parties have control over the terms. If for whatever reason the judge ruled against Rifqa at trial, or the delay caused Rifqa to age out of the Ohio foster care system at age 18 without being declared a dependent, she could be immediately sent back to Sri Lanka. This is a risk that her legal counsel does not appear willing to take, but one which some other “friends” of Rifqa are foolishly advocating for because they do not understand the process or the potential risks to Rifqa.
9) THE BIBLE SAYS THAT “FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD” AND RIFQA MAY END UP “DEAD” WITHOUT THE LEGAL “WORK” OF HER ATTORNEYS. Prayer for Rifqa is definitely needed -- no question about it. We all need to be crying out to God for Rifqa’s safety and for His mercy and wisdom. But the Bible teaches that faith (i.e. prayer alone) without works is dead. And no person in America has the ability to do any direct work or take action to save or rescue Rifqa except her two Ohio lawyers and the judge. NO ONE, no matter how inflated their self-image or belief that their amateur legal skills supercedes that of Rifqa's highly-competent attorneys. Attorneys are an easy target but you will never appreciate them unless and until you need one to steer you in a complex case like this. Do not underestimate the importance of Rifqa’s legal team or over spiritualize the matter thinking that prayer alone will save her. Rifqa needs both faith and works -- otherwise her will remain in danger. And further "prayer" does not involve making public and asinine statements on matters you know absolutely nothing about.
10) THANK RIFQA’S LAWYERS-- DON’T CRITICISM THEM. When Rifqa turns 18 and can eventually feel safe in this country it will not be because of the bloggers who have mouthed off and the criticism of self-appointed Rifqa advocates that have had no actual involvement in Rifqa's legal case. It will be primarily because of the sovereign grace and mercy of God AND the outstanding and continued work of Rifqa’s legal team.
I cannot judge the motive of those who are spreading bad information and have misguided opinions about Rifqa's lawyers and her case. They may be sincere, but they are sincerely wrong. I cannot fault a non lawyer for not understanding the law, legal procedure and the rules of evidence. But I say that the non lawyer arm chair critics need to humble themselves and stop the arrogant and ignorant grandstanding. They need to stand down and let the professionals do their job.
Please help Rifqa by forwarding this statement widely to her supporters.