A Lackawanna man faces the possibility of life in prison after a federal court jury found him guilty Thursday of operating a criminal enterprise and importing and distributing marijuana.
The jury deliberated a day and half before finding Mohamed Taher guilty on five of the six felony charges against him.
Taher is the brother of Yasein Taher, a member of the “Lackawanna Six,” the six men who were arrested on charges that they attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan run by al-Qaida and later pleaded guilty.
Yasein Taher was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Federal authorities said there was no link between the two prosecutions but Mohamed Taher nevertheless finds himself facing between 22 years and life in prison.
The government’s case, which included several defendants who already had pleaded guilty, was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy C. Lynch and Joel L. Violanti.
“Today’s verdict, combined with previous convictions obtained in this case, removes the ring leader and members of a criminal enterprise and illegal drugs from the streets of our community,” U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said in a statement.
Taher’s co-defendant during the trial, Kaleel Albanna, also faced felony charges of importing and distributing marijuana but was found not guilty on all charges.
After the verdict was read, the jury foreman, a woman, cried.
“We’re thrilled,” said Herbert L. Greenman, Albanna’s defense lawyer. “It was a diligent jury. When you see the foreman of the jury cry, it tells you a lot about the effort they put it into it.”
Rodney O. Personius, Taher’s defense lawyer, declined to comment on the verdict but, during the trial, questioned the credibility of the government’s witnesses, many of whom cooperated in exchange for leniency in their own prosecutions.
“There’s just something wrong with this case when all these people are getting these deals,” Personius said at one point.
Taher was out on bail during most of the trial but found himself back in custody last week after writing a note and holding it up inside the courtroom.
The note, which said “Bangs are nice,” prompted Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny to question the jury about what they might have seen.
None of the jurors said they saw the note.
No one knows for certain why Taher wrote the note, although Skretny said it might have been intended for female members of the jury.