Toward the end of the day Wednesday, with the jury preparing to recess for the holiday weekend, defendant Mohamed Taher wrote a note and held it up inside the courtroom.
“Bangs are nice,” the note said.
No one knows for certain why Taher, one of two defendants in a marijuana-trafficking case, wrote the note, although the judge wondered aloud Monday if it was intended for female members of the jury.
“Obviously, the government has grave concerns,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch. “It could have easily been viewed by the jury. We don’t know if it was.”
Lynch, who is prosecuting the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel L. Violanti, said the note, written in block lettering, was clearly displayed for the men and women deciding Taher’s fate.
“It appears he endeavored to influence one or more members of the jury,” he said.
Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny responded to the allegations – the note was spotted by a witness and caught on courtroom surveillance tapes – by revoking Taher’s bail and questioning the jury about what they might have seen.
Skretny said he felt compelled to survey the jury because it wasn’t clear from surveillance tapes if anyone saw Taher’s note.
“Did any of you see the piece of paper that was held up?” Skretny asked them Monday.
None of the jurors said they saw it.
Taher’s defense lawyer said he saw the surveillance tapes but said the note was never recovered. He also pleaded with Skretny to be cautious in how he questioned the jury.
“The more specific it gets, the greater the danger of prejudice,” said defense attorney Rodney O. Personius.
In the end, Skretny allowed the trial to continue and the jury to remain intact.
Taher and co-defendant Kaleel Albanna are accused of taking part in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana and smuggling cash across the border into Canada in 2006 and 2007.
Taher is charged with being a leader of the conspiracy.