A lawyer representing an Orange County CVS pharmacist accused in 2011 of lying to the FBI about her role in funding international terrorism claims the government's case is weak and that prosecutors are abusing foreign intelligence secrecy rules.
Defending Oytun Ayse Mihalik against the charge when the government has sealed alleged evidence against her "is the equivalent of inviting the defense counsel into a boxing match with the caveat that the defense counsel must be blindfolded before entering the ring," according to Alan Eisner, Mihalik's Van Nuys-based lawyer.
Eisner is asking U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton Tucker to order the unsealing of a series of records the government filed under seal in connection with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
This week, Assistant United States Attorney Judith A. Heinz, who works in the National Security Section at the Department of Justice (DOJ), said that Congress requires FISA information to be filed under seal and that Eisner has not provided any valid reason to make public certain classified records.
But Eisner believes that the government's secrecy is masking a weak case against Mihalik, who lived in La Palma.
"The evidence, even in a light most favorable to the [DOJ], reveals just how far Ms. Mihalik was removed from any terrorist organization or plot," he wrote in May 17 brief. "Ms. Mihalik never met the individual with whom she communicated. Ms. Mihalik never attended any terrorist training camp. Ms. Mihalik was never privy to any specific terrorism plot. Ms. Mihalik never offered any advice for any terrorism attack. The organization with whom Ms. Mihalik was allegedly communicating is not listed in the United States' list of terrorist organizations."
According to Eisner, Mihalik merely sent "a little more than two thousand dollars in the span of a month" overseas and claims the government "has not proffered any evidence that Ms. Mihalik's conduct involved any intelligence that, if revealed, would be a threat to the United States."
But according to FBI Special Agent Siddhartha Patel, Mihalik--a native of Turkey--had arranged a suspicious marriage to remain in the U.S. and used a fake name--Cindy Palmer--when she wired funds from a Buena Park Ralph's grocery story in late 2010 to persons in Pakistan and Turkey.
Though a portion of the evidence remains sealed, FBI agents obviously believe Mihalik's money was going to help terrorist efforts to kill U.S. soldiers or citizens.
On August 26, 2011, Mihalik and her husband met with the FBI in Santa Ana. The agents raised suspicions about the marriage and her activities.
The next day, she bought a one-way ticket to Istanbul via London on American Airlines and found herself under arrest at LAX.
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According to Patel, Mihalik--who was born in 1972 and remains in custody--repeatedly lied to the FBI when she claimed she sent the money using her real name.
Mihalik has not been charged with any terrorism crimes.
Judge Tucker is scheduled to hear both sides argue over FISA secrecy in the case on June 4 at the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.