Hugh Fitzgerald: Saudi Contempt for American Justice


In Oregon, Saudi students charged with serious criminal offenses have over the past few years repeatedly managed to escape American justice. Those charged have been provided, by their own government, with lawyers, bail money, and even, if necessary, they’ve been whisked away to the Kingdom, to escape any further unpleasantnesses from the pesky Americans who dare to believe that their system of criminal justice should apply even to the Saudis. The Saudis, of course, have no intention of letting the American criminal justice system take its course, without their government stepping in to make sure Saudi nationals get the best defense that money can buy. And if that defense is unsuccessful, the Saudis have other ways to help those nationals evade American justice.

Here is the story. The first case of the Evading Saudi involved rape:

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In December 2014, a university student from Saudi Arabia was arrested in Monmouth and accused of raping a classmate after giving her marijuana and shots of Jack Daniel’s.

Bail was set at a half-million dollars. The judge ordered the student, Abdulaziz Al Duways, to turn over his passport to the private defense lawyer hired to represent him, according to court records and the Polk County District Attorney’s Office.

A few days later, an official from the Royal Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Los Angeles posted bail.

Al Duways disappeared.

What’s half a million dollars to the Saudis? If bail is to be set, then let it cause real financial pain to the deep-pocketed Saudi state. That means ten or twenty times as much — five million, ten million, whatever it takes. Better still, American judges, properly forewarned about Saudi practices, should refuse to let any Saudi defendant in a serious criminal case out on bail, as they have a record of managing to leave this country for the Kingdom, even without possessing a passport, no doubt because they are whisked away on a private Saudi jet.

The case preceded a similar one recently reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive involving Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah. The Portland Community College student jumped bail in the hit-and-run death of a 15-year-old Portland girl and apparently fled with the Saudi Arabian government’s help, law enforcement officials said.

But the two disappearances aren’t the only ones involving Saudi students facing serious criminal charges in Oregon.

The Oregonian/OregonLive has found criminal cases involving at least five Saudi nationals who vanished before they faced trial or completed their jail sentence in Oregon. They include two accused rapists, a pair of suspected hit-and-run drivers and one man with child porn on his computer.

The five cases share many similarities:

– All were young men studying at a public college or university in Oregon with assistance from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the time of their arrest.

– In four of the cases, the Saudi government stepped in to help, posting large sums of money for bail and possibly underwriting legal fees.

– Three surrendered their passports.

– All disappeared while facing charges or jail time.

– The same Oregon defense attorney, Ginger Mooney, was hired to represent the four most recent suspects.

– Little is known of the whereabouts of the five, though some have been traced back to Saudi Arabia….

Most puzzling is how some of the students were able to leave the country and travel internationally after they had surrendered their passports.

This is even more evidence that the Saudi government has acted to help its citizens escape justice for crimes committed in Oregon,” Sen. Ron Wyden told The Oregonian/OregonLive in response to learning about the new cases….

The modus operandi in all five cases in Oregon has not varied. The Saudi state hires the same lawyer (one Ginger Mooney), and supplies bail money for its accused nationals. So far, it has twice posted the colossal sum of $500,000 to obtain their temporary freedom. Then the Saudis managed to spirit them out of the country which, since three of the five had surrendered their passports, undoubtedly meant that they had been smuggled out of the country on private Saudi-owned planes.

So far the Oregonian/OregonLive found criminal cases involving at least five Saudi nationals who vanished before they had faced trial or completed their jail sentence in Oregon. These defendants were charged with major crimes. Two were accused rapists, another two were suspected hit-and-run drivers, and one Saudi man had child pornography on his computer.

The KSA makes sure it protects its own from the workings of American justice, no matter how serious the crimes they have been charged with. There is no other country that so consistently, and so brazenly, flouts our legal system, treating it with such contempt.

This story of KSA meddling and mendacity to make sure that justice cannot be done in America when those charged are Saudi nationals, who have repeatedly been able to avoid punishment, needs to be much more widely known. Let the public, not just in Oregon but all over America, learn about the Saudis who, charged with serious crimes against Americans, have been systematically helped by the KSA, that has paid lawyers, supplied bail money (up to $500,000 per accused), and even furnished getaway planes, so that they might evade justice.

No appeals to decency or fairness will mean a thing to the Saudis. But if they are threatened with overwhelmingly negative publicity, disseminated by a group of outraged citizens determined to expose how the Saudis protect their own from being punished by our system of criminal justice, that could have a salutary effect on the behavior both of the individual Saudis who are in our country to study and on the behavior of the Saudi state. Saudi students, precisely because they are sure that their own government will defend them, supplying  lawyers, bail money, and in some cases, helping them to flee he United States on Saudi-owned planes, have been led to believe that they can get away with a great deal. We want to make the KSA change its ways, and to communicate that change to Saudi nationals in this country. They should be informed that the Saudi state’s support will be limited to help in paying for a defense lawyer. No longer will bail money be supplied by the KSA; nor will it undertake any other action to help Saudis avoid punishment by, e.g., flying them home so as to avoid American justice.

The reaction to the Khashoggi killing has been severe, even leading to discussions in Congress of possible sanctions on the Kingdom which, so far, have come to naught. But the Saudis, including the Crown Prince, were not expecting anything like this, and it’s given them a salutary scare. They now have a keener sense of the need to avoid bad publicity. They can’t afford, post-Khashoggi, to spirit away to safety Saudi nationals charged with rape, hit-and-run, and other crimes of similar seriousness. They will have to be content to pay for the very best criminal defense lawyers that money can buy. And if that means that some Saudis will actually have to serve the same prison sentences, for the same crimes, as do non-Saudi defendants, that’s an outcome devoutly to be wished. It is long past time for the Saudis in the West to be disabused of the notion that they are above the law — that is, our American law — and taught forcefully that even when the victims of their crimes are Unbelievers, there will be a price to pay.

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