Judge denies request to delay trial for BG man suspected of ISIS ties

Published 4:05 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

By Justin Story, Bowling Green Daily News

The trial of a Bowling Green man accused of traveling to Syria to join the designated foreign terror organization ISIS will remain on schedule to begin early next month after a judge denied a motion to continue the trial.

Mirsad Ramic, 34, appeared Tuesday in U.S. District Court for a final pretrial conference in a federal criminal case in which he faces charges of providing material support and resources to ISIS, conspiring to provide material support to ISIS and receiving military-type training from a designated terrorist organization.

Federal prosecutors claim that Ramic, a Bosnian national with dual U.S. citizenship, conspired in 2014 with two Saudi nationals who were attending Western Kentucky University to fly from the U.S. to Syria for the purpose of joining ISIS.

Ramic is alleged to have traveled from the U.S. to Turkey, and instead of continuing on a flight destined for Sarajevo, Bosnia, paid cash for a plane ticket to a Turkish border city and smuggled himself into Syria and trained with ISIS until 2015.

Ramic’s trial is set to begin June 4, a date kept by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Greg Stivers after hearing a motion from Ramic’s attorney, federal public defender Scott Wendelsdorf, to continue the trial.

Wendelsdorf’s motion, filed Monday, mentioned that he had received about 12 gigabytes of data containing about 3,000 documents that day from federal prosecutors and that Ramic had asked to personally review all of the discovery evidence turned over by the government, consisting of more than 21,000 documents.

Some of the evidence consists of classified material that falls under a protective order issued Monday by Stivers that, among other things, establishes a procedure wherein the FBI or a court-designated Classified Information Security Officer has arranged for secure areas for Wendelsdorf to review the material.

Wendelsdorf noted in his motion that the protective order prohibits Ramic from being provided with his own copies of the evidence containing classified information.

On Tuesday, Wendelsdorf said that his client has asked for additional investigation and research, prompting the request to continue the trial and for the court to appoint a second defense attorney to assist Ramic.

“(Ramic) asked for more time to complete the investigation he has asked us to undertake, which there’s no earthly way I could do between now and June 4,” Wendelsdorf said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Judd said many of the newly turned-over documents contain information that he requested not be subject to the protective order covering the classified records.

Judd also argued that the government is prepared to begin trying the case as scheduled, having coordinated with several witnesses to ensure that they’re able to travel to Bowling Green to testify.

“At this point, it’s really late in the case, we’ve put quite a lot of effort to get here, we’re ready and our witnesses are scheduled to be here,” Judd said.

Stivers denied the motion to continue the trial, saying that the case was ready to proceed.

“As I’ve told Mr. Ramic on several occasions, I hold his attorney in very high esteem and if there is a conviction, some other attorney will be appointed to review the efficacy of Ramic’s efforts,” Stivers said in court.

The rest of Tuesday’s hearing focused primarily on logistics in seating a jury and selecting alternate jurors.

The jury pool for this case will be drawn from multiple counties in southcentral Kentucky, and prospective jurors have been mailed questionnaires that the court will use to determine a person’s fitness to serve on the jury.

Judd confirmed for the court Tuesday that a plea offer previously extended to Ramic to resolve the case has expired, with Ramic unwilling to accept the offer.

In a related development, Stivers issued an opinion Monday granting the prosecution’s motion for a protective order to preserve the anonymity of some of its witnesses.

Federal prosecutors had asked in a filing last month that the court protect the identities of six witnesses consisting of an “FBI covert employee, FBI confidential human sources and cooperating witnesses” who could be called to testify against Ramic.

Wendelsdof had argued in a filed reply that protecting the identities of the witnesses violates Ramic’s right to a public trial and confront the witnesses against him, arguing the potential threat against the witnesses if their identities are disclosed is “highly speculative.”

Stivers’ order allows those witnesses to use a pseudonym while testifying and calls for only the judge, essential courtroom personnel, the jury, the government’s trial team, Ramic and his attorney to be present while those witnesses are testifying.

Contemporaneous audio recording of the testimony would be played in a separate room for the public, with transcripts made available as soon as feasible afterward.