Former Ashland activist Pete Seda is now a free man while he awaits word on whether the government will challenge a federal appeals court ruling that threw out his 2010 conviction for money-laundering, which prosecutors tried but failed to tie to Islamic terrorists.
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken signed an order Friday freeing Seda, who had been on home confinement in Portland since his release from a halfway house Aug. 23, the same day the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered his new trial.
Court papers filed Friday state that Seda, 54, is living in a Portland apartment with his wife, Summer, and that the former Ashland arborist now works at Elephants Delicatessen.
Prosecutors have asked for a Nov. 5 deadline on whether to seek a rehearing on the appeal, which was heard by a three-judge panel that included a dissenting opinion from one of the judges.
Prosecutors did not oppose Seda's motion for release.
A jury convicted Seda on tax-evasion and conspiracy charges for using his defunct Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation chapter in Ashland to help smuggle more than $150,000 from Ashland to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and later signing a fraudulent tax return to cover it up.
Though prosecutors argued Seda's motive was to fund Islamic terrorists in Chechnya and that argument was a key component of the entire trial, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Hogan ruled during the trial they failed to prove the connection.
Appeals court judges accused the government of "tunnel vision" in the case, though the dissenting judge lauded the government for "extraordinary efforts" to handle evidence properly in a sensitive case involving national security and intelligence secrets.
The majority judges also ruled that the now-retired Hogan erred in allowing unclassified summations of classified materials that was given to Seda's defense team, saying it was misrepresenting and incomplete.
The appeals ruling returned Seda's case to the U.S. District Court in Eugene for a new trial.
The government's options include asking the appeals court for reconsideration, appealing the ruling, going forward with a retrial or dropping its case.
Seda spent more than two years of his nearly three-year sentence behind bars, either in custody before his trial or after his 2012 sentencing.
— Mark Freeman