Judge orders compound suspects remain in federal custody

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday ordered five former residents of a ramshackle New Mexico compound to remain jailed amid accusations that a woman in the group declared herself a prophet while her partner helped train children for potential attacks on schools, law enforcement agencies and other institutions.

The ruling came a day after a federal grand jury indicted the group on firearms and conspiracy charges, which stemmed from accusations that Jany Leveille, who is originally from Haiti, had been living in the country illegally and that the others had conspired to provide her with firearms and ammunition. The four others charged in the case are Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40; his sisters Hujrah Wahhaj, 37, and Subhanah Wahhaj, 35; and his brother-in-law Lucas Morton, 40.

Authorities said Leveille had kept a journal in which she described being able to interpret messages from God, and also documented the death of her partner Siraj Wahhaj’s 3-year-old son, who had been denied medication for seizures. Authorities said the couple had performed daily, hours-long prayer rituals over him in the days leading to his death — even as he cried and foamed at the mouth — and that Leveille believed medication suppressed Muslim beliefs.

“Their actions were deplorable,” prosecutor George Kraehe told the judge. “They were despicable, and they make them a danger to the community.”

An FBI agent also testified during the hearing in Albuquerque that Leveille’s two teenage sons had described how she expected Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, the boy who died, to be resurrected as Jesus and provide instruction to get rid of corrupt institutions that involve teachers, law enforcement and banks.

The boys were among 11 children who local authorities say were found living in filth at the compound last month. They also had been among those trained at a firing range on the property in military tactics, authorities said.

Each of the group’s attorneys disputed evidence and allegations presented by federal prosecutors, noting that much of it was based solely on the uncorroborated statements of children who had been interviewed by authorities without a parent or guardian present.

One attorney also said the scrutiny of the prayer ritual performed over the sick child had resulted in the group’s faith being used against them. Authorities compared it to an exorcism.

On cross examination, FBI Special Agent Travis Taylor said Leveille’s writings had not specifically mentioned “corrupt institutions.” But, he said, authorities had found a notebook with writings on the “phases of a terrorist attack.”

“The bulk of the testimony really had little to do with the offenses,” said Zachary Ives, the attorney for Siraj Wahhaj. “No institutions are identified in the writing.”

The five adults living at the compound were arrested following Taos County authorities raid of the site last month in search of Abdul-ghani, the missing toddler who authorities say had been taken from his mother in Georgia.

After he died last winter, his remains were first kept under the bed of a trailer that had been wedged into the ground as part of the compound, authorities said Wednesday. As the weather turned warmer, his body was moved to a 100-foot-long tunnel that authorities say the group had built to serve as an escape route in the event of a law enforcement raid.

In state court, Taos-based District Attorney Donald Gallegos dropped initial charges of child abuse resulting in death against Leveille and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj last month, saying he was seeking more time to assemble and analyze evidence, and that he intended to seek grand jury indictments.

Days earlier, state judges dismissed child neglect charges against the five adults, noting that the local district attorney’s office missed crucial deadlines to present initial evidence of a crime.

The federal grand jury indictment alleges the five arrested transported firearms and ammunition from Georgia to New Mexico in late 2017.

Along with rifles, handguns and ammunition, authorities said they found books on being effective in combat and building untraceable assault-style rifles during the compound raid.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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