We do not have a date yet for Dr. Dhafir’s resentencing but should hear any time. Â Dr. Dhafir’s lawyer, Peter Goldberger, has supplied us with clear guidelines for writing the most effective letters to Judge Mordue. Â Please read Peter’s guidelines carefully and then take the time to write this very important letter to Judge Mordue, it is Rafil’s best hope. (Examples of letters can be found here.) Signed hard copy letters should be mailed to Peter Goldberger’s office. Before mailing it to him – to ensure it is a letter that will be supportive of Rafil’s cause and be included in the packet submitted to Judge Mordue – I suggest you submit your letter first to Peter Golberger’s office by email for approval: email@example.com
All letters should be sent to:
LAW OFFICE OF PETER GOLDBERGER
50 Rittenhouse Place Ardmore, PA 19003-2276
(610) 649-8200 FAX(610) 649-8362
August 1, 2010
Peter Goldberger* Pamela A. Wilk
To: Supporters, Friends and Family of Rafil Dhafir
From: Peter Goldberger, Dr. Dhafir’s lawyer
Re: letters to the Judge in connection with resentencing
As you probably know, Dr. Rafil Dhafir will be facing resentencing before United States District Judge Mordue in federal court in Syracuse some time in the coming months. The resen- tencing was ordered by the Second Circuit court of appeals. The appellate court’s opinion says that we appeared to be right in our argument that the “sentencing guidelines” for the offense of “money laundering” were miscalculated. (Sending overseas the proceeds of a “fraud” – that is, the fundraising for Help the Needy – was deemed to be a form of “money laundering.” Because of the amount of money that HTN raised, and the way the federal sentencing guidelines calculate the seriousness of various offenses, the guideline for “money laundering” wound up over- shadowing the other charges.) Therefore, Judge Mordue was directed to consider whether the sentence should be different (shorter, that is) after taking into consideration the correctly calculated guideline range. Our position, however, is that there is nothing to stop Judge Mordue from reconsidering any other aspect of the sentence if he is persuaded to do so.
Some of you may be thinking of writing supportive letters about Dr. Dhafir to the Judge in an effort to help Rafil receive the lightest possible sentence. The purpose of this memorandum is to advise you of the most effective way to do this, in terms of when and where to send the letters, proper manner of addressing the Judge, and some suggested do’s and don’t’s about content.
The letter should be addressed (but not sent) to:
Hon. Norman A. Mordue Chief U.S. District Judge James M. Hanley Federal Bldg. 100 So. Clinton Street Syracuse, NY 13261-7236
The proper manner of addressing the judge at the beginning of a letter is “Your Honor:” or “Dear Judge Mordue:”. The letter should refer to Rafil Dhafir by name either between the address and the salutation (such as with a “Re:” line), or in the firstsentence. The letter should also include a signature, as well as the date and your address (either in the top right corner or under your signature). These seemingly little things help emphasize that you understand the seriousness of the forum in which you are expressing your opinion, and that you stand behind and take personal responsibility for what you say. For this reason, e-mail is not nearly as suitable as a traditional letter, written as a separate document.
Very important: please make sure that you DO NOT MAIL YOUR LETTER DIRECTLY TO THE JUDGE — MAIL IT TO MY OFFICE (at the address on this letterhead) or e-mail it to me as an attachment. (But frankly, the judge is an older gentleman and will probably react better to a real letter, showing a signature in ink. So I reiterate that I prefer and suggest that letters be signed and mailed to me, not sent by e-mail lacking a real signature.) Sending the letters to my office rather than directly to the judge is critical because, although you of course will include in your letter only what you consider to be information that will be helpful to Rafil at sentencing, there is always a possibility that someone may unintentionally include something that could actually be harmful. Before I forward any letter to the judge, I need to read and check it in light of my experi- ence, so that I am confident that we submit only potentially helpful material. In addition, I will be submitting all the letters to the judge at one time, in an organized way, with a covering memo from me which among other things will point out the recurring themes in the letters and will probably quote from some of them. I cannot do this effectively if the letters don’t all go through my office.
As to content (and I offer these examples only for purposes of general guidance, of course), you should of course identify in the letter how you know Rafil (relationship, etc.) and for about how long. If you have only read about his case, but do not know him personally, say so. If you do know him personally, it can be very effective to include a specific and heartwarming example of Dr. Dhafir’s generous, sincere, devout and/or loving character or history of religious and community service. More general letters about a lengthy and positive relationship in which Rafil has been a trustworthy and caring friend, neighbor, doctor to you or someone you know, colleague or family member are also helpful.
In contrast, it would not be useful to declare that Dr. Dhafir is or must be innocent or to express resentment against the fact that he was selected for prosecution or as to his treatment by the FBI, the prosecutors or the judge; there is always a risk that such sentiments will be attributed to him and held against him. Although he has denied any criminal wrongdoing, you should not focus on this. After all, the judge must sentence him as if Rafil were guilty. It makes no sense to tell the judge what you think an appropriate sentence would be for an innocent person, because obviously there is no such sentence and it just makesÂ your letter that much less persuasive. Also, bear in mind that the judge may grant the press access to any letters he receives, treating them as public records like any other court document. Anything you write could be quoted in a newspaper or on a website, associated with your name.
If you want to discuss the fact that the Bureau of Prisons has sent Rafil far away from home, and kept him in conditions (the “Communications Management Unit”) that make the usual family phone calls and visits nearly impossible, and which restrict his religious exercise, etc., as a way of suggesting that the length of the sentence be reduced, that’s fine, too. I will be using that fact to point out that whatever prison term is imposed at the resentencing will have a significantly more punitive impact on him than a sentence of similar length ordinarily has on the average defendant.
I am not saying that anyone should restrict what he or she has to say about the Dhafir case in any other forum. And I am certainly not suggesting that anyone write anything that s/he does not believe to be the truth. But the one and only audience for letters addressed to the court in relation to resentencing is Judge Mordue. What might have a positive effect on him, in this case, at this time, is what I am discussing. So as you can see, my suggestion is that the most effective focus would be on Rafil as a person, and not on any feelings as to his guilt or innocence, about the excesses of the “war on terror,” the cruel effects of the pre-2003 sanctions imposed on Iraq or their aftermath, about discriminatory treatment of the Muslim community in this case or generally, or about unfairness in the criminal justice system. Ordinarily, it is not helpful to tell the judge explicitly that someone “has been punished enough” or is “not a real criminal” or that he does not deserve to be in prison, even though that is certainly the final impression we want the judge to have after reading all of the material submitted.
I would like to have your letters no later than two weeks prior to sentencing (we will know the date several weeks in advance; I will let the family and his supporters know exactly as soon as I hear). That way, I can review them, suggest changes if neces- sary, receive any revised letters, and organize them all as part of a cohesive sentencing package for Rafil that I can submit to the judge in advance of the resentencing date. Since I do not expect sentencing to occur until at the earliest late September, if you can get them to me by the week after Labor Day that should be fine.
Thank you all in advance for your help and continuing support to Dr. Dhafir, especially at this important time.