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JDL Leader's Attorneys Seek FBI Inquiry Files

They say government has it in for bomb-plot suspect, citing earlier allegations that league had scammed rappers.

November 02, 2002|David Rosenzweig | Times Staff Writer

Trying to prove that Jewish Defense League leader Irv Rubin is the target of a government vendetta, his lawyers have asked federal prosecutors to turn over records of a three-year FBI probe into allegations that the JDL participated in a scheme to extort money from the late rap stars Tupac Shakur and Eazy-E through death threats.

The FBI inquiry began in 1996 and was closed in 1999 with a finding that the allegations could not be substantiated.

In papers filed in U.S. District Court this week, Rubin's lawyers called the probe another example of the government's longtime bias against their client.

Last month, the defense advanced similar charges, citing the FBI's investigation of Rubin in connection with the unsolved 1985 bombing death in Santa Ana of Alex Odeh, West Coast director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Rubin's lawyers hope to raise the issue of alleged government bias when Rubin and his chief lieutenant, Earl Krugel, go to trial in January on charges of conspiring to bomb King Fahd Mosque in Culver City and a field office of Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Vista), who is of Lebanese descent. In the latest defense document, attorney Peter Morris accuses the government of falsely charging Rubin in the bombing case "to finally convict him after its earlier unsuccessful attempts to do so."

Morris said the defense first learned of the rapper extortion investigation last week after locating copies of previously released FBI documents on the Internet. He said the defense immediately sent the prosecution a letter requesting the entire FBI case file. The defense is also seeking access to the Odeh investigation files.

According to Morris' account, the FBI targeted Rubin and the JDL in its investigations of the "murders" of Shakur and Eazy-E, whose given name was Eric Wright. In fact, Wright was not slain. He died of AIDS-related complications in 1995. Shakur was fatally wounded in 1996 after a scuffle at a Las Vegas hotel. But the records obtained by Morris to date give no indication that Rubin was considered a suspect in Shakur's murder.

Morris, in a telephone interview Friday, acknowledged the errors, saying, "We're looking for any investigation that the government has done or might be doing into the JDL or Irv Rubin."

Additional documents, obtained by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the extortion allegations first surfaced in September 1996, while an FBI agent was interviewing a confidential informant about the Odeh murder.

"The scheme involves [name blacked out] and other subjects making telephonic death threats to the rap star," according to the agent's written account of the interview. "Subjects then intercede by contacting the victim and offering protection for a fee.

"The victim and their family are taken to a 'safe haven,' usually a private estate, and are protected by gun-toting bodyguards associated with the Jewish Defense League. The subjects convince the victim they have worked a 'deal' out with the person(s) making the death threats, and the threats cease. The victim then pays the subjects for the protection services rendered and resume [sic] their normal lifestyle with no fear of further death threats."

The agent said another reliable informant subsequently corroborated the allegations and named the same people.

"Writer is familiar with captioned subjects, as their names have surfaced in the Odeh investigation and also a case captioned 'Jewish Defense League,' " added the agent.

FBI headquarters in Washington gave the Los Angeles-based agent three months to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the allegations, and granted three extensions "to determine whether the extortionate activities of subject are in furtherance of the social and/or political goals of the Jewish Defense League," according to documents obtained by The Times.

In April 1997, the Los Angeles field office received permission to launch a full-scale criminal investigation after telling Washington it had developed information that the main target was acting on behalf of the JDL, according to the documents.

Another memo, heavily edited, indicated that in 1992 Wright was paying someone $1,000 a week as a security consultant because of threats on his life. The recipient's name was blacked out in the memo.

Morris said Friday that he didn't know if Rubin had performed security work for Shakur or Wright. Krugel's lawyer, Mark Werksman, said his client, a dental hygienist, had nothing to do with anyone in the rap world.

In May 1999, the Los Angeles FBI office shut down the investigation, telling headquarters that the allegations were extensively investigated but could not be substantiated.

Whether the defense will be able to claim government bias during the upcoming trial could be decided Monday when U.S. District Judge Ronald S.W. Lew conducts a hearing on a number of pretrial motions.

Assistant U.S. Attys. Gregory Jessner and Daniel Rubinstein, who are prosecuting the case, have contended in their legal briefs that such a claim would confuse and mislead the jury.

The prosecution is on record as opposing a motion by Morris and co-counsel Bryan Altman to sever Rubin's case from Krugel's. Rubin's lawyers say racist comments made by Krugel during secretly recorded conversations with a government informant would prejudice the jury.

They also said Krugel plans to mount a defense based on a claim of illegal entrapment, meaning that he took part in the bombing plot but was induced by the FBI informant, a former JDL member. Rubin contends that he had nothing to do with any bombing plot.

Rubin, 56, and Krugel, 59, were arrested last December and have been held without bail.

*

Times staff writer Chuck Philips contributed to this report.

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