As the federal trial gets underway today in Cedar Falls, IA, the religious card is not really being played, but it is clearly in the deck. And one of the South’s more prominent agriculture and food attorneys is joining the defense team for William B. Aossey Jr. In response to Aossey’s fourth motion to dismiss on the eve of the trial, government attorneys charged the defense with using “cut and paste” religious arguments without briefing them for the court, and they are concerned about “who’s on first” for the defense. At a Monday afternoon hearing, however, Chief Judge Linda R. Reade let the defendant have the attorneys he wants but once again denied the motions to dismiss. The defense team, now including Chicago criminal attorney Haytham Faraj and Birmingham commercial litigator Jason R. Klinowski, claims that the prosecution is attempting to “enforce the religion-based law of foreign Muslim counties.” However, they did not brief that argument before trial. Klinowski, a former Chicago attorney himself, is editor of the blog, “The Fresh Facts,” which covers “legal and business insights” about the fresh produce industry. In January, he became counsel with Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt LLC, based Birmingham, AL. He is an expert in USDA and FDA food regulation. Klinowski joined the William B. Aossey Jr. defense team just before the trial after first representing the separately charged Midamar Corporation and Aossey’s son Yahya N. Aossey, who are both going to trial in September, and that has the government concerned about conflict. “The sloppy course of representation runs the risk of creating greater problems down the road in the event of a conviction,” government attorneys said. “Disgruntled defendants frequently later complain their attorneys operated under a conflict of interest. Such potential for conflicts exists here.” The group of defendants charged separately also includes Islamic Services of America (ISA), which is represented by attorney Charles D. Swift. The government says he filed a joint motion to represent that case on behalf of ISA and Midamar, but he does not represent Midamar. Multiple representation of the defendants, the government says, is causing conflict and confusion. The first of two criminal cases involving Halal food exports, United States v. William B. Aossey Jr., begins trial today with jury selection scheduled to get underway in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids, IA. The 73-year-old Cedar Rapids businessman will face all 19 federal counts charged last December 5 by a grand jury indictment. Aossey is the founder of two organizations that formed the backbone of an international Halal food service business based in the north-central Iowa community — Midamar and ISA. Halal foods, particularly meats, are slaughtered and/or prepared in ways that meet specific requirements of the Muslim religion. In the 19 counts, the grand jury charged Aossey with conspiring to make false statements and documents, sale of misbranded meat, and committing mail and wire fraud involving that business. Midamar, ISA, and Aossey’s two sons face similar sets of charges, but they are not scheduled for trial until September.
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