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Threat case dropped

The defendant was accused of saying he would blow up USF's soccer coach.

By JUSTIN GEORGE
Published September 20, 2006


TAMPA - For more than seven months, Nabil Mouad has sat in a Hillsborough County jail cell, initially isolated from the general population.

Guards thought charges lodged against him could make other inmates think he was a terrorist.

But in a five-minute hearing Tuesday, a prosecutor dropped the case against Mouad, 20, accused of threatening to blow up the University of South Florida soccer coach.

Behind the dismissal was the coach, George Kiefer, who didn't want the schizophrenic man to go to prison, Mouad defense attorney Lyann Goudie said.

He had been charged with threatening to discharge a destructive device and assault on a specified official or employee.

"It isn't that they didn't take the threats seriously; they took the threats seriously," Goudie said of university officials. "They just didn't believe him to be a terrorist."

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement now plans to deport Mouad to Morocco, though Goudie didn't know when. His temporary visa has expired.

Mouad is Muslim. Ahmed Bedier, director of the Tampa branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said 9/11 undertones led to his prolonged jailing.

Mouad was simply a young man who wanted to play professional soccer, Bedier noted, but mental illness derailed the dream.

"These type of things carry heavy penalties, especially for an Arab young man," Bedier said of the charges. "We were also concerned about the added impact on the community's image, with him being a Muslim. But we're very happy. This is vindication for him and shows he wasn't showing any violent actions or terrorist behavior."

Mouad said he came to the United States alone as a teen on a student visa. He bounced around states and high schools, eventually landing in Tampa in 2003.

He worked at convenience stores, but wanted to play college soccer and asked USF for a tryout. Coaches told him he needed to enroll first. He returned repeatedly, trying to persuade them, and on Feb. 6, got into an argument with Kiefer.

He wanted to reclaim a highlight tape he had given coaches. When he didn't get it, Mouad exploded. Kiefer told USF police he chased him around the office saying he was Moroccan and "that he will blow me up," allegations Mouad denied.

Mouad was off his medication at the time, which helped prosecutors decide to dismiss charges.

"That plays a large part," Assistant State Attorney Felix Vega said.

Mouad was initially represented by the Public Defender's Office, which planned an insanity defense. But the Muslim community in Tampa, along with Mouad's friends, raised money to hire Goudie, who didn't see merit in that argument.

Goudie said the insanity defense wouldn't work unless Mouad admitted making the threat.

"Nabil denied ever making the threat to blow up coach Kiefer," Goudie said. "To me that wasn't the point. To me you have a kid in this country who has basically been by himself since he was 16 years old and needs to be back in his home country with his family to get the mental health help he deserves."

When Goudie took depositions from Kiefer and other USF officials, she also began negotiations, telling them that sending Mouad back to Morocco was in everyone's best interest.

"This is the resolution he wanted," Goudie said. "He wanted to go home."

[Last modified September 20, 2006, 06:12:45]


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