ANCHORAGE — An Arab-American businessman accused of faking a hate crime against himself after the Sept. 11 terror attacks has asked a federal judge to move his trial outside Alaska because of pretrial publicity.
Nezar "Mike" Maad, owner of Frontier Printing Services, faces a Feb. 4 trial in U.S. District Court in Anchorage on two counts of falsifying loan applications, one count of wire fraud and two counts of making false statements to the government.
Federal defender Rich Curtner, in a motion filed Friday, argued Maad can't receive a fair trial in Alaska because of news coverage.
Sometime on the weekend of Sept. 21 — 10 days after attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — someone spray-painted "We hate Arabs" on a wall at Frontier Printing and wrecked the shop's equipment.
Maad was born in Syria, but has lived in Anchorage for 20 years.
The damage generated a flood of sympathy and donations. The Maads received about $34,000.
But at the shop, police said they found no signs of forced entry. Family photographs weren't marred, nor was the carpet or furniture. Only presses, copiers, computers and other expensive equipment were damaged.
Last month, Maad was arrested on the fraud charges. The U.S. Attorney's Office closed the hate-crime investigation and said Maad and his wife, Joanne, were suspected of damaging the shop themselves to get insurance money. However, they have not been charged with that.
In his motion, Curtner said news coverage had created a presumption of guilt among potential jurors.
"What is most prejudicial about this publicity is that it condemns Mr. Maad of a crime he hasn't been charged with, based on information that would not be admissible at this trial," he argued. "The community assumption is that he is guilty of destroying his own property and of violating the trust of a community that came to his aid."
Dan Cooper, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting Maad, said the government hasn't decided how to respond to Curtner's motion.