Chicago Tribune: Man faces new charges in 2003 van explosion
By Tom Rybarczyk, Tribune staff reporter.
Tribune staff reporter Rudolph Bush contributed to this report.
A Burbank man was arrested Monday on federal charges he violated the civil rights of a Muslim family when he allegedly tossed a fireworks explosive into their unoccupied van.
Eric K. Nix, 26, has been convicted in Cook County of misdemeanor charges stemming from the same 2003 incident.
Shortly after his arrest at 8:30 a.m. Monday, he pleaded not guilty to the federal charges before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ian Levin.
Nix was performing community service as part of his sentence for the misdemeanor conviction when U.S. deputy marshals arrested him.
His punishment in September 2003 in Cook County Circuit Court, 200 hours community service and two years' probation, was criticized as a "a slap on the wrist" by Muslim civil rights groups and the victim, Abbas Salmi.
"We are definitely pleased with the fact that justice is taking its due course," said Fadi Farhan, director of governmental relations for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"The punishment in any case should fit the crime, and this charge fits the act more than the previous [charges]."
If convicted of the federal charges, Nix faces a maximum prison term of 10 years and a fine of $250,000.
Nix's defense attorney could not be reached for comment.
The new charges against Nix represent an unusual case of the federal government charging a defendant under a different statute for the same incident for which he was tried at the state level, officials said.
Asked what led to the new charge against Nix, Assistant U.S. Atty. Sergio Acosta said it would be inappropriate to comment.
Daniel R. Alba, 31, was also charged federally in connection with the incident for allegedly making false statements to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm agents.
Prosecutors alleged that Alba of Burbank told ATF agents he did not know who caused the explosion. He also pleaded not guilty and faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Both men were released on their own recognizance.
Nix pleaded guilty to arson, criminal damage to property and committing a hate crime for the March 2003 attack, just days after the U.S. invaded Iraq.
He was convicted for throwing a brick through a window of a Muslim-owned furniture store in 2001, officials said. He spent 30 days in jail.
The "large, mortar-type firework" exploded and caused irreparable damage to the van and terrified Salmi's family, said Salmi's attorney, Betsy Shuman-Moore of Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
ABC-TV NEWS @ 5: PSA reminds Americans that Muslims condemn terrorism, too
By Sarah Schulte
July 14, 2005 — Muslim-Americans are airing a new public service announcement on the heels of the London terrorist attacks. The PSA is an effort to show that Muslims are just as outraged by terrorism as any other religious group. Muslim-American groups say they have been blamed for not publicly condemning terrorism. So, in an effort to change that perception, the Council on American-Islamic relations is launching a nationwide public service campaign. The goal is to make it clear that Islam is not about hatred or violence.
Exactly one week after suicide bombers attacked London, America's largest Muslim group says now is the time to reach as many people as possible to remind them that Muslims condemn terrorism.
"Even though Muslims have been condemning terrorism consistently and persistently over the past months and years, the message has not been received by certain members of the open community," Ahmed Rehab, Council American-Islamic Relations.
By using different faces of Islam, the Council on American-Islamic relations is hitting the airwaves to get their message across..
Several Chicago Muslim groups say while they have made great progress since 9/11 to erase stereotypes, one act of terrorism can take them several steps backward, which is why many say the public service announcement is so important right now.
"The Muslim community as a whole is in extreme fear, depression and sorrow, and they want the opportunity to let average Americans out there know how terrible we feel about the situation," said Ali Khan, American Muslim Council.
Some Muslim-Americans actually blame their own community for not getting this message out clearly. Civil rights attorney Kamron Memon believes ever since 9/11 Muslims have focused most of their attention defending themselves against the Patriot Act. Memon says it's time to shift the focus.
"We have been focused to a great extent on the civil liberties side. We have not paid as much attention to the national security side and to issues like what we as American Muslims can do to help make our country safer," said Kamran Memon, civil rights attorney.
Muslim-Americans say their community needs to do more than PSA's. Groups say an open discussion about national security is needed with different religions, government agencies and average Americans.
Chicago Suntimes: Same hate crime, new U.S. charges
against convicted Burbank man
By Natasha Korecki - Federal Courts Reporter
In 2003, Eric Nix was charged with a hate crime after he hurled a fireworks-type mortar into a Muslim family's van in Burbank.
But months later, Nix got off with what the Muslim community called an "unfathomable" sentence -- two years probation and anger management classes.
That case was in state court.
In an unusual move, federal prosecutors stepped in Monday and arrested Nix, 26, slapping him with federal civil rights charges for the same incident. This time, Nix faces up to 10 years in prison if he's convicted.
'He could have killed somebody'
The feds also charged Nix's friend, Daniel Alba, 31, with lying to federal agents in an alleged attempt to lead them astray. Both men, who live in southwest suburban Burbank, pleaded not guilty and were released on a $10,000 bond Monday.
Nix is accused of lighting an explosive inside a van belonging to the Salmi family, parked on the 7700 block of South Mayfield.
The Palestinian Muslim family filed a lawsuit earlier this year in Cook County Circuit Court against Nix, seeking at least $100,000 in damages.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sergio Acosta said he couldn't comment on why the feds brought charges in the same case.
But at the time of Nix's probation sentence in 2003, an Islamic group demanded a federal investigation, saying if it were a Muslim who bombed a van, he'd be held on severe charges. That same group applauded the new charges Monday.
"He throws a bomb in a van, he could have killed somebody, and they give him anger management classes. We obviously don't believe that was appropriate," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group. "I think the original case did not take into account the seriousness of this person's actions. I think it's entirely appropriate to bring federal charges against him."
Nix was arrested early Monday while performing community service he must do for the state conviction.
Nix was brought up on three state felony charges for the 2003 incident -- arson, criminal damage to property and committing a hate crime. He also served a month in prison in 2001 after an Oak Lawn Police officer saw him throw a brick through the window of an Arab-owned furniture store in Burbank. The incident happened two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
An attorney said the Salmi family was pleased to hear of the new charges.
"Terrorism affects all Americans, including Arab Americans," said Betsy Shuman-Moore of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights. "Violence and intimidation based on religion and ethnic origin violates a wide array of state and federal criminal and civil laws, which should be enforced fully."
CAIR-Chicago Co-Sponsors Cafe Finjan
CAIR-Chicago participated in its first Cafe Finjan event on Thursday, July 14th, at Che Cafe - 1058 W. Taylor Street. Cafe Finjan is a series of interfaith arts exchanges, begun in 2004 by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs as part of its Jewish-Muslim Community-Building Initiative. The series creates spaces for Chicagoland Jews, Muslims, and others of diverse backgrounds to come together and give voice to their identity and experience as part of a larger community.
With 60 available seats, Cafe Finjan had more than a full house, with several guests standing in the back. It was an evening of local Jewish and Muslim poetry readings, storytelling, and singing. A member of each of the participating organizations introduced their organization, its purpose and activities. Dina Rehab, Outreach Coordinator, introduced CAIR-Chicago and spoke of the volunteer opportunities available.
CAIR-Chicago would like to thank all the performers, volunteers and sponsoring organizations for making this event happen. We would also like to thank all our guests whose support ensures the continuity of our work.
SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS (in alphabetical order):
Council on American-Islamic Relations Chicago (CAIR-Chicago)
Council of American Muslim Professionals Chicago (CAMP)
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA)
Muslim Bar Association of Chicago (MBA)
Hands of Peace
Dr. Shakeela Hassan, CAIR-Chicago Board member, and Fadi Farhan, Director of Governmental Relations, took part in a gathering of Palestinian and Israeli children aged 14 to 16 hosted by Islamic Foundation in Villa Park on Friday, July 15, 2005. The gathering was part of a program called Hands of Peace; Hands of Peace brings children from Palestinian as well as Israeli homes together in the United States to interact and create dialogue on the personal level. CAIR-Chicago was proud to take part in the effort and congratulates the children involved for their courage in confronting the many issues involved in the conflict directly and frankly.
Muslim Americans Detained and Questioned at U.S./Canadian Border:
As part of a potential class action law suit, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and CAIR-Chicago is asking anyone who has been detained and questioned at the U.S./Canadian border to please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The facts of the above case are as follows:
A Muslim American man says he has been searched and questioned four times while trying to re-enter the country from trips abroad, even though he had proper identification. The man was held for six hours last month as officials at a U.S. checkpoint in Canada questioned him about the September 11th terrorist attacks. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is representing the man and says they have heard similar complaints from other Muslim Americans.
Religious Discrimination Delays Citizenship Process:
As a joint effort with the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), CAIR-Chicago is asking individuals who passed a citizenship examination and have been waiting for over 90 days, or have been waiting for a Green Card for permanent residence for over 90 days to contact us at either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Religious Discrimination at Standardized Testing Centers:
As part of a potential class action law suit, CAIR-Chicago is asking for anyone who has experienced any form of religious discrimination at a testing center to please contact us at email@example.com. An example of a possible form of religious discrimination includes requiring or requesting the removal of a headscarf for searches, or discriminatory remarks made by employees about Muslims or Islam.
The facts of the above case are as follows:
A Muslim student was asked to remove her headscarf on two separate occasions at a testing center before she began a standardized test required for graduate school. The supervisor and employees of the testing center refused to show her a written copy of the policy requiring Muslim women wearing a headscarf to be searched. A witness at the testing center also observed the employees making discriminatory remarks about Muslims while the victim was taking the test.
Please let us know if you or someone you know have experienced a similar incident and would like to take action to prevent such forms of religious discrimination at standardized testing centers in the future.
Vandalized Property in the North-Side
In the past several months several Muslim families from the north-side of Chicago and the northern suburbs have had property vandalized by unknown perpetrators in the late hours of the night. If you or someone you know has had property vandalized, and feel that you may have been the target of a hate crime, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
July is "Help the Needy" Month:
CAIR-Chicago Invites the Public to Participate in the Civil Liberties Coalition of IL Town Hall Meeting with Special Guest and Speaker, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9)
For more information, please contact:
CAIR-Chicago (A Chapter of The Council On American-Islamic Relations)
28 E. Jackson Blvd, Suite 405, Chicago IL 60604
Phone: 312-212-1520, Fax: 312-212-1530
Email: email@example.com, Website: www.cairchicago.org
Please email your comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org If you have received this email directly from
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