Defender Has No Money|for Terrorism Case

BOISE, Idaho (CN) – The head of Federal Defender Services in Idaho says there isn’t enough money in his budget to defend a man facing terrorism charges.
     Federal Defender Services of Idaho Executive Director Samuel R. Rubin on Wednesday asked U.S. District Court Judge Edward Lodge to remove him from a case involving Uzbekistan national Fazliddin Kurbanov, 30, who was arrested May 16 in a Boise apartment complex.
     The arrest came after a lengthy, multi-state investigation. Kurbanov is federally charged with making videos that show “recipes” for explosive devices and where to buy materials to make them.
     The devices were meant for “bombings of a place of public use, a public transportation system or infrastructure facility, or destroying a building in interstate commerce,” the Idaho U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
     U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson in Idaho, who is prosecuting Kurbanov, told National Public Radio she would not oppose Rubin’s request to withdraw from the case.
     A grand jury on May 16 issued a three-count indictment: conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and possession of an unregistered explosive device, according to The Associated Press.
     A separate federal grand jury in Salt Lake City indicted Kurbanov on one count of distribution of information relating to explosives, destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction, according to the AP.
     His trial was set for Idaho’s Fourth Judicial District Court in Boise, but Rubin says he does not have enough “resources” to defend Kurbanov and the state’s other indigent clients.
     “This case is going to take significant resources,” Rubin told National Public Radio. “We have an obligation to handle 75 percent of the federal indigent cases in Idaho. It’s important to handle high-profile cases, but it’s also important to handle cases involving people who are not high profile.”
     Rubin told NPR that discovery alone could involve hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, which could eat up his budget in a hurry.
     “He (Rubin) is saying that if he represents this man, he’ll have to cut representation for others,” Reuben C. Cahn, executive director of Federal Defenders of San Diego, told Courthouse News in an interview. “He wants to give the taxpayers as much as he can with the budget he has.”
     The lean budget involves the federally mandated sequester, automatic spending cuts that took effect March 1 under Congress’ Budget Control Act. It reduces federal spending on public defender programs in all 50 states.
     “Defenders are funded through the judiciary (branch),” Cahn said. “We are independent, but the money comes from the judiciary. When we went into this year, we had a budget that was sufficient to keep up our caseloads, but as we rolled into February, the judiciary was convinced Congress was not going to pass a spending bill, and we ultimately took budget cuts of 5 percent. Two weeks later, the sequestration came and we had another 5 percent cut.”
     Cahn said that in his office, 81 percent of the budget is allocated to personnel, 9 percent to rent and the remaining 10 percent to “other” expenses, such as travel, expert witnesses and telephone service. He said small offices cannot afford to handle big cases.
     “Usually when a smaller office gets a big case, they ask for additional funding, but there isn’t any money,” Cahn said. He said his office in San Diego has been forced to drastically cut its budget. “So when a smaller office gets a big case, it can’t handle it. This will be a more common situation next year. Next year, the budget will drop 14 percent below current levels. It means defenders are going to be opting out of high profile cases.”
     But someone must provide Kurbanov with representation.
     Kurbanov probably will be represented a private attorney, who will be paid from the judiciary budget – the same one that has been cut, leading to cuts in state programs.
     “It’s all a part of the account within the judiciary for judiciary services,” Cahn said. “They are just moving money around. It really doesn’t make any sense. The Sixth Amendment mandates we defend those who don’t have the resources to defend themselves. We can’t evade this or minimize it. You can’t apply cost cutting and minimal standards.”
     Cahn said it could take some time before Congress realizes the effect the cuts have had on the judiciary and what that will ultimately cost.
     “Hopefully Congress will recognize it will cost taxpayers more money and reverse course,” he said.

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