PORTLAND, Ore.—A member of the group of Portland-area Muslims convicted of conspiring to wage war against the U.S. won’t be subject to additional prison time, despite his refusal to testify in front of a grand jury, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
But Judge Robert E. Jones did rule that the time Patrice Lumumba Ford has recently served in the Multnomah County Justice Center would not count toward his 18-year prison sentence, imposed in November, 2003.
Ford, who was convicted of attempting to join the Taliban in late fall 2001, was subpoenaed in July by a grand jury in Portland. Beyond confirming his name at grand jury proceedings, Ford refused to answer any questions, saying that his religion prohibited him from implicating a fellow Muslim.
“I find his beliefs in good faith,” said Jones. “Mr. Ford’s beliefs are sincere—he will not be coerced to testify.”
Ford has said that he tried to reach Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 to fulfill an Islamic duty to defend fellow Muslims. Ford and other Portland-area Muslims got as far as western China, but visa troubles thwarted their efforts to get to the war zone. The FBI arrested and convicted six members in 2002. The alleged ringleader remained abroad and died in a shootout with U.S. forces on the Afghan border in 2003.
In his ruling Tuesday, Jones said Ford has already served the time necessary for contempt of court.
“The appropriate sanction is the length of the court proceeding, roughly of July and August,” said Jones. To Ford he said, “You have now served the time on this sanction. You won’t get credit on your 18-year sentence and will be remanded to the Bureau of Prisons.”
Ford’s family and supporters say he doesn’t deserve the 18-year sentence.
“This is a young man who never intended violence on anyone,” said 55-year-old Linda Olson-Osterlund of Portland. “There’s been an injustice. I would like to see his sentence reduced to reflect the harm done.”
Ford’s father, Kent Ford, 61, of Portland, said he didn’t mind that the two months wouldn’t be taken off the sentence.
“So he loses two months,” Ford said. “He got the chance to come home (to Portland) and see his family.”
Patrice Ford’s attorney, Marc Sussman, said he believed Jones’s ruling showed a sensitivity toward Islam. Sussman said there were no plans to appeal Ford’s sentence, but he believed there would be more grand jury activity.
“The grand jury’s term is not over and I assume their investigation will continue,” he said. “I’m sure there have been others subpoenaed.”
A call for comment to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Portland was not immediately returned.