Thursday, December 09, 2004


Dhafir--I am forbidden to smile--Paper reports

From the Syracuse Post Standard

Dhafir: I'm forbidden to smile, wave
He says his behavior in court is restricted. Official: Only visiting is prohibited.

Thursday, December 09, 2004
By John O'Brien Staff writer

In the first six weeks of his fraud trial, Dr. Rafil Dhafir smiled and waved at his supporters nearly every time he entered the courtroom.

On Wednesday, he was dour and barely looked into the gallery at all.

Dhafir says the government put a clamp on him.

"I have to tell you that I can no longer return your greetings, wave to you, say hello, or even smile to you in court," he wrote Friday in a letter to Jeanne DeSocio, one of the half-dozen or so supporters who sit in the gallery almost every day.

"I was told that I am not allowed to do that!!!" Dhafir wrote. "I don't know how low the government will stoop down to."

Dean Obernesser, a deputy U.S. marshal, said he spoke with Dhafir last week about talking to people in the courtroom during breaks. The Marshals Service has a policy barring defendants who are in custody from visiting with people other than their lawyers in the courtroom, Obernesser said.

No one from the Marshals Service told Dhafir he couldn't wave or smile, Obernesser said.

"We informed them of the Marshals Service policy regarding visitation," Obernesser said. "The Marshals Service policy does not say one thing about smiling or waving. It speaks of visitation."

In the first six weeks of the trial, Dhafir often chatted with friends and supporters during breaks. Such conversations are prohibited because those talks "could include anything," Obernesser said.

Dhafir, 56, an oncologist from Manlius, is accused of defrauding donors to the Syracuse-based charity he founded, Help the Needy, by siphoning some of their contributions intended for oppressed Iraqis to finance his business interests and those of his friends. He's also accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iraq by shipping money there, and of Medicare fraud and tax evasion.

DeSocio, who often prayed in the courtroom, said she was shocked to read Dhafir's letter.

"I don't know why this man can't even smile at his friends," she said. Dhafir gave her a thumb's-up sign one day when she'd been crying after hearing testimony about starving Iraqi children.

In Wednesday's testimony, Dhafir's former tax accountant testified that federal agents never told him he had a right to a lawyer and to say nothing before questioning him on the day of Dhafir's arrest. G. William Hatfield, who later pleaded guilty to helping Dhafir file a false tax-exemption application for Help the Needy Endowment Inc. with the IRS, said the agents told him he'd be "much better off" if he didn't contact his lawyer when they questioned him Feb. 26, 2003.

Hatfield testified last week that Dhafir claimed $1.3 million in tax deductions for charitable contributions from 1996 through 2001. But Hatfield said those donations would not have been tax-deductible if, as prosecutors allege, he'd had the money sent to an account in Amman, Jordan, then back to the United States for his own use.
© 2004 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?