Defendants in Amalia compound case appear in federal court

September 4, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE — A federal judge will determine Wednesday whether five residents of a former compound near Amalia, who were arrested last week by the FBI on federal firearms and conspiracy charges, will be granted release pending prosecution.

At a brief court appearance in front of U.S. Magistrate Kirtan Khalsa in Albuquerque, Jany Leveille, 35; Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40; Hujrah Wahhaj, 37; Subhanah Wahhaj, 35; and Lucas Morton, 40, told the judge they had seen and read through criminal complaints charging them with violating federal crimes.

Leveille is charged with being “unlawfully in possession of firearms and ammunition in the District of New Mexico from Nov. 2017 through Aug. 2018,” says a news release from Justice Department spokeswoman Elizabeth M. Martinez.

The other four suspects are accused of aiding and abetting Leveille.

Assistant U.S. Attorney George Kraehe told Khalsa the four defendants accused of conspiracy each could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted, and Leveille could face 10 years in prison for the weapons charge.

Kraehe said the federal government is asking that all five defendants be detained during court proceedings.

A judge set the detention hearing for Wednesday morning, and the defendants — each bound at the waist and feet by chains — were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

The defendants initially were arrested in early August at a makeshift compound near the Colorado border on child abuse charges, after officials accused them of keeping 11 children in squalid conditions. Each faced 11 charges of child abuse in the state District Court in Taos, but those charges were dropped last week after prosecutors failed to meet deadlines in the case.

The compound has since been razed.

The district attorney in Taos also dismissed additional charges against Leveille and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, accused in the death of Wahhaj’s 3-year-old son, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj.

The remains of the boy, who was reported missing in early December from his home in a suburb near Atlanta, were found buried at the compound. Leveille and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj face a count each of conspiracy and child abuse resulting in the death of Abdul-Ghani. Authorities believe the pair denied the child his seizure medication and that he died during a prayer ritual Dec. 24.

The district attorney, in dismissing the charges, said he wouldn’t be able to prepare for a preliminary hearing in the case within a 10-day deadline.

Kari Converse, a public defender who represented the three women in the federal case at Tuesday’s court appearance, told members of the media that Kraehe’s request for detention was not a guarantee for the five defendants.

“I’m not going to foresee what’s going to happen,” Converse said, but added detention is “not a foregone conclusion.”

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