The trial date for the former leader of the Orlando office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Ahmad Saleem, has been set. However, before any of the evidence in the case had a chance to be brought to light, one of the two charges against him was dropped. Saleem has been out of jail since shortly after he was arrested in May. The big question is will he be back behind bars?
On May 20, 2015, Ahmad Abrar Saleem was arrested during a sex sting operation held in Clermont, Florida, where he had traveled to have illegal intercourse with someone who he believed to be a twelve-year-old girl. When news broke that Saleem had been involved, word spread quickly and the story went viral. It had nothing to do with who he was personally; it had everything to do with who he represented.
Shortly before his arrest, Saleem had held the position of Orlando Regional Coordinator for CAIR. CAIR is widely known as a group that has deep ties to the terrorist organization Hamas. The former head of Hamas and current spokesman for Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook, had a hand in CAIR’s founding in 1994; CAIR has been named by the United States government as a party to Hamas financing; and different officials from CAIR, who have had involvement with Hamas (as well as other terror groups), have been convicted in and/or deported from the US.
Most, if not all, of the leaders of CAIR-Florida – which Saleem was a part of – much like the founders of their national headquarters in Washington, DC, hold viciously bigoted views towards the state of Israel. The Executive Director of CAIR-Florida, Hassan Shibly, himself wrote, only one year ago, in August 2014, that “Israel and its supporters are enemies of God.”
Because of the controversies surrounding this group, Saleem’s arrest was widely reported. This article will be the third piece written by this author about this case.
Prior to coming to CAIR, Saleem was the President of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) as well as the MSA National Service Director. Photos containing Saleem are still found on the Facebook pages of the UCF MSA; the University of Florida Gainesville MSA (Islam On Campus), and the Florida MSA Council.
Those who hold leadership positions within the MSA, which has its own storied terrorist background, many times go on to be leaders within CAIR, and Saleem’s course is no different in that regard.
Saleem was seen as a young shining star in the Muslim community, but that will no doubt end, unless he can somehow escape the reality he finds himself in and avoid jail time. A recent problem with the charges against him may have provided Saleem the thin lifeline that he needs.
The trial to determine Saleem’s fate has been scheduled for late October, with a pre-trial conference shortly before it. This means that Saleem will be free for at least another three months. Even though we find ourselves a ways away from trial, the prosecution has already suffered a setback.
According to Assistant State Attorney Walter Forgie, one of the two charges against Saleem has been dropped by the State Attorney’s Office. This apparently was due to an overlap in evidence between the two charges, dealing with how and when Saleem was using his cell phone in the commission of the crime. In legalese, “There was no temporal separation between the two events.” If tried, according to Forgie, it would amount to ‘double jeopardy’ or being tried twice for the same offense.
The charge that was dropped was “use of a computer to seduce/solicit/entice a child to commit a sex act,” which according to Forgie was the “lesser charge.” The charge of “traveling to meet minor for illegal sexual conduct” is still intact.
Lesser charge or not, though, losing one of the two charges will unquestionably do harm to the sentencing.
Forgie says that it is safe to say that most defendants being tried in this type of case get jail time. However, with a sympathetic jury (if Saleem chooses to go that route) or sympathetic judge, the outcome could be different.
The State Attorney’s office assured this author that Saleem’s personal attorney, Robert I Mandell, had nothing to do with the dropping of the charge and that they have had no contact with Saleem’s attorney. Forgie did not know whether or not any of the others who were caught in the sting had had any of their charges dropped.
Saleem’s attorney has already entered a plea of “not guilty.” Following an arrest, it is not an uncommon practice to enter a plea of “not guilty,” even though outright guilt is understood (and Saleem could opt to change the plea later). But given the loss of the charge of the computer evidence, nothing is absolute. Indeed, the pressure is now on the prosecution to provide video evidence that is solid and without fault.
It is one thing for Ahmad Saleem to have a terror-related past, as he does. It is yet another for him to have, on top of that, the branding of a sexual predator. Saleem is very involved with youth groups, and his parents both have professions dealing with children, his father Muhammad being a pediatrician and his mother Samina being a school teacher.
It would be a travesty of justice and a danger to the community, if this Islamist pedophile were able to walk from this crime.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.