TRENTON, N.J. — The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday began representing a man accused of setting off bombs in New York and New Jersey and injuring more than 30 people.
After judges in both states denied attempts by public defenders to represent Ahmed Khan Rahami, a lawyer for the organization’s New Jersey chapter entered a notice of appearance in his case in federal court in Newark on Monday.
Rahami has been hospitalized since he was caught following a shootout with police in Linden last week. He has not made an initial court appearance.
Prosecutors said in a filing last week that he had been incapacitated and intubated since undergoing surgery for his wounds. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office did not have an updated condition available on Monday.
Rahami’s family spoke with his doctors on Monday for the first time after numerous requests since the ACLU got involved, said Udi Ofer, the New Jersey chapter’s executive director. Ofer didn’t disclose Rahami’s condition, but ACLU attorney Alexander Shalom said law enforcement officials have informed the ACLU he remains unconscious.
Federal judges last week denied requests by public defenders to be appointed to represent Rahami, agreeing with prosecutors’ arguments that he had not officially been arrested by federal authorities.
Shalom said in a filing that Rahami’s father and wife requested the ACLU represent him until he is appointed a federal public defender or other lawyer.
Ofer said denying Rahami’s right to a lawyer “violates the Constitution and needlessly sacrifices civil liberties in the name of national security.”
“It is outrageous that Mr. Rahami has been in custody for a week yet has been denied the right to have an attorney visit him to confirm his condition and protect his constitutional rights,” Ofer said.
Rahami, an Afghan-born U.S. citizen, has been accused of detonating a pipe bomb in a New Jersey shore town and a pressure cooker bomb in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood on Sept. 17. No one was injured in the Jersey blast, and 31 people were injured in the New York blast. A second pressure cooker bomb didn’t explode.
Rahami was charged by federal prosecutors in both states and faces state charges in New Jersey in connection with the shootout. Two officers involved in the shootout were treated for minor injuries.
The charges against Rahami include federal terror crimes and state charges of attempting to murder police officers.