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United States v. Meskini

October 27, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John F. Keenan, United States District Judge

Opinion and Order

On October 13, 14, and 19, 2010, I held supervised release revocation hearing as to nine violations of supervised release Abdel Ghani Meskini ("Meskini" or "Releasee") allegedly committed from in or about 2006 until November 10, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. This Opinion and Order sets forth my findings of fact and conclusions of law with respect to each of the nine specifications.


On March 7, 2001, Meskini pleaded guilty pursuant to a cooperation agreement to an eight count Information charging:

(1) conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; (2) conspiracy to commit identification document fraud; (3) transferring and attempting to transfer false identification documents; (4) transferring and using means of identification of other persons; (5) trafficking in unauthorized access devices; (6) effecting and attempting to effect transactions with unauthorized access devices; (7) bank fraud; and (8) possessing a firearm as an illegal alien in the United States. On January 23, 2004, I sentenced Meskini principally to seventy-two months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. Meskini's supervised release was subject to several mandatory and standard conditions, including that he not commit another federal, state, or local crime; not possess a firearm; cooperate with the Government; submit truthful and complete monthly reports to his probation officer; avoid places where controlled substances are illegally sold, used, distributed, or administered; and not associate with criminals. I additionally ordered that Meskini pay $59,545.80 in restitution and an $800 special assessment.

On March 17, 2010, the United States Probation Department submitted a report outlining nine violations of supervised release; an amended report was submitted on August 5, 2010. The Government alleges that Meskini: (1) failed to pay court-ordered restitution; (2) attempted to possess a firearm in or about the spring or summer of 2007; (3) attempted to purchase an AK-47 assault rifle in or about the summer and fall of 2009; (4) committed criminal attempt in violation of Ga. Code Ann. § 16-4-1; (5) committed criminal solicitation in violation of Ga. Code Ann. § 16-4-7; (6) associated with a person who had a felony record and/or engaged in criminal activity from 2006 to November 10, 2009; (7) frequented an establishment where illegal drugs are sold, used, distributed, or administered on multiple occasions; (8) made false statements in late 2009 in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001; and (9) failed to cooperate with the Government.

II.Findings of Fact

The Government's burden of proof in a supervised release revocation hearing is a preponderance of the evidence. 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(3). The Government's evidence at the revocation hearing established the following facts.

After his release from prison, Meskini relocated to Atlanta, Georgia and obtained a job managing low-end apartment complexes known as "21 Delmont" and "32 Peachtree Avenue." (Oct. 13, 2010 Tr. at 75). Meskini's responsibilities included collecting rent from tenants and making repairs in the apartments. (Id. at 66, 75). By all accounts, 21 Delmont in particular was a hotbed of criminal activity, where narcotics sales and prostitution occurred openly and persistently. (Id. at 15-16, 65; Oct. 14, 2010 Tr. at 197-99, 258-59).

Incredibly, the United States Probation Department approved Meskini's employment as building manager of the complexes. (Oct. 19, 2010 Tr. at 347). In fact, Meskini met with various members of law enforcement throughout his tenure at 21 Delmont and 32 Peachtree Avenue, all of whom knew or should have known that the job would bring Meskini in constant contact with criminals. Although Probation claims that it was unaware of the extensive criminal activity occurring on the premises, the parties stipulated that it is the common practice of the Probation Office in the Northern District of Georgia to visit a releasee's place of employment. (Id.). Had an officer checked out 21 Delmont in person, the illicit activity would have been readily apparent. Moreover, Meskini met with Detective Jay Sausmer of the Fulton County Police Department numerous times between 2005 and 2009 and told the detective that criminal activity, including prostitution, occurred in the properties he managed. (Id. at 300-02). However, neither Detective Sausmer nor any other law enforcement official ever told Meskini not to work at 21 Delmont or 32 Peachtree Avenue. (Id.). Even after he was no longer employed at 21 Delmont, in 2009 Meskini told Special Agent James Pinette of the FBI that he had interacted with prostitutes and drug dealers in his capacity as building manager. (Oct. 13, 2010 Tr. at 15-16).

While working at 21 Delmont, Meskini came to know several of the tenants, including Crystal Roughton and Ricky Stephenson, two of the Government's witnesses who testified pursuant to immunity orders. Ms. Roughton is a prostitute who admittedly uses crack cocaine on a daily basis; however, she stated that she had refrained from smoking crack for the four or five days prior to taking the witness stand and that her mind was clear. (Id. at 61-63). Ms. Roughton testified that she lived at 21 Delmont for a few months in 2005, and moved back in mid-2006, staying for a little more than a year. (Id. at 64). She saw Meskini at 21 Delmont every day, (Id. at 66), and, as corroborated by the log of calls made and received by Meskini's phone number from September to November 2009, (Gov't Ex. 18A; Oct. 19, 2010 Tr. at 354), the two spoke very frequently. On a few occasions, they had sex. (Oct. 13, 2010 Tr. at 72). Meskini helped Ms. Roughton with her prostitution business by loaning her money, proof-reading her escort service advertisements, assisting her with obtaining internet access, and teaching her how to screen clients. (Id. at 67-69). If Ms. Roughton was unable to pay her rent, Meskini would give her an extension. (Id. at 73). She identified Meskini in the courtroom. (Id. at 66). Overall, it appears that Ms. Roughton and Meskini had a close relationship.

Ms. Roughton testified about Meskini's involvement with firearms on two specific occasions. First, she explained that she had seen Meskini with a gun in 2007. (Id. at 76). Although she could not recall the exact month of this observation, she remembered that the weather was warm. (Id.). She explained that she and Meskini were talking in the parking lot of 21 Delmont when another tenant named Chris interrupted them. (Id. at 77-79). She saw Chris go to a green car, open the trunk, retrieve a black handgun, and give the gun to Meskini. (Id. at 77-79, 162). She then watched as Meskini put the gun under the driver's seat of his black pickup truck and drove off. (Id. at 80). Ms. Roughton observed this transaction from a distance of about ten feet. (Id. at 79). Approximately one day later, Ms. Roughton confronted Meskini on the phone about the events that took place in the parking lot, and Meskini confirmed that the item she saw was a gun. (Id. at 81).

Additionally, Ms. Roughton testified that in the fall of 2009, Meskini asked her to help him obtain an AK-47 assault rifle. Specifically, Ms. Roughton recounted that Meskini told her he needed an AK-47 and would not spend more than $5,500 to purchase one. (Id. at 85-86, 162). Shortly thereafter, Meskini informed Ms. Roughton that he had found an AK-47 for sale but that it came with 50 grenades he did not want. (Id. at 87). The next time they spoke, Meskini told Ms. Roughton that he had emailed her pictures of an AK-47 as an example of what he was interesting in buying. (Id. at 87-88, 91-92). Ms. Roughton told Meskini that she had not received any emails from him. (Id.).*fn1 Meskini explained that the name of the sender would be Cofield, and then he verified her email address. (Id. at 91-92). On September 20, 2009, Ms. Roughton did receive an email from "Tony Cofield" attaching three photos of an AK-47. (Gov't Ex. 20; Oct. 13. 2010 Tr. at 92-94). After she received the email, Ms. Roughton made numerous phone calls to try to locate an AK-47 for Meskini. (Oct. 13, 2010 Tr. at 95). In October of 2009, Ms. Roughton informed Meskini she might have a lead on an AK-47 for him, but Meskini told her that he had already gotten one. (Id.).

It is not immediately apparent from the email addresses that Meskini sent either or both of the messages attaching the pictures of the AK-47. Meskini disclosed to the Probation Department that he had an email address beginning with "ghani68." (Gov't Ex. 21, Monthly Supervision Reports for September and October 2008; Gov't Ex. 1A). However, the Government established that the "Tony Cofield" account and the "katal_09" account were registered to the same IP address. (Gov't Exs. 2A, 3A). An FBI agent who logged onto a wireless network in the vicinity of Meskini's home was able to send an email from the IP address used to register the "Tony Cofield" and "katal_09" accounts. (Gov't Ex. 19S). Furthermore, the Government introduced access records for the "ghani68," "Tony Cofield," and "katal_09" accounts demonstrating that, on several occasions in October of 2009, someone logged onto these accounts in quick succession, all using the IP address located in the vicinity of ...

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