New Mexico compound suspects in federal custody, accused of firearms charges

Roberto E. Rosales  The Albuquerque Journal via AP

New Mexico compound suspects in federal custody, accused of firearms charges

The FBI has arrested the five adults who were living at a New Mexico compound where a boy was found dead, accusing them of breaking firearms and conspiracy laws, authorities said Friday.

All five suspects will remain in custody until a trial Tuesday.

Leveille, who is from Haiti and in the USA illegally, was charged with being "an alien unlawfully in possession of firearms and ammunition in the District of New Mexico from November 2017 through August 2018".

State charges of child abuse resulting in death were dropped against Leveille and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj in connection with the child whose body was found earlier this month in an underground tunnel at the compound near the Colorado state line.

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Eleven children were taken into state custody in an August 3 raid on the squalid compound, where a half-submerged camper was surrounded by walls of used tires and adobe walls topped with broken glass.

If convicted of the charge against her, Leveille faces a statutory maximum penalty of ten years of imprisonment and deportation upon completion of her sentence.

The FBI arrested the defendants without incident in Taos, N.M., this afternoon with the assistance of the Taos County Sheriff's Office. He was the son of one of the suspects.

He was detained at the site, along with Lucas Morten, Jany Leveille, Hujhrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj.

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On 13 August, Judge Sarah Backus granted bail to the five defendants after she said the prosecution had failed to convince her that they were a threat to the community. At a pre-trial hearing, the prosecution argued that the children had been trained by the adults in how to use firearms to fend off a potential Federal Bureau of Investigation raid, as well as how to commit a school shooting.

"The state alleges that there was a big plan afoot, but the state hasn't shown to my satisfaction, in clear and convincing evidence, what that plan was", Judge Backus said.

The announcement comes after local prosecutors dropped charges in the death of a 3-year-old boy at the compound site. State prosecutors had alleged that Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Leveille intentionally deprived Abdul-Ghani of his medication and instead would perform a prayer ritual over him to cast out the demons they believed were making him sick. All five defendants are Muslim and related by blood or marriage.

Defence lawyer Thomas Clark said after the hearing that if the accused were Christian and white then "nobody would bat an eye over the idea of faith healing".

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