Three days after a jury acquitted 23-year-old Youssef Megahed, the feds sent seven unmarked cars to seize him while his family was shopping at a Tampa Wal-Mart.
I am thinkin', wow, seven cars to nab the guy at Wal-Mart!
Were they worried that he had a secret plan to sneak out via the garden shop? Was he a threat to take too many items into the fitting room?
Nope. In fact, his parents had just gotten a call from his lawyer telling them to come to his office right away.
They were going. They even left their grocery cart and headed out. But the feds were already in the parking lot, flanking the exit, and perhaps scaring the heck out of Wal-Mart shoppers.
I am thinkin' of Kiefer Sutherland here, putting on his sunglasses while melodramatic fed-music plays:
FED #1 (whispering into sleeve): He's in the cereal aisle. Looks like Rice Krispies. No, wait. Corn flakes.
FED #2: I've got him in sight now. Toilet paper and Kleenex. Repeat, toilet paper and Kleenex. Possibly Puffs.
SUTHERLAND: Paper goods, eh? Well, this time the case against him is going to be more than (dramatic pause) paper thin.
FED #1: Red alert tango delta! We've got a Code 67-B — they're leaving the toilet paper aisle!
SUTHERLAND (cue action music): Move in! Move! Move!
• • •
Wal-Mart high jinks aside, trying to deport Youssef Megahed after his acquittal on criminal charges is not "double jeopardy."
Double jeopardy means you can't be charged with the same crime over and over, until the government gets a verdict that it likes.
Deportation is a separate deal, the question of whether you've done anything worth getting kicked out for.
In the light most favorable to Megahed, he was an innocent who got sucked in by a more threatening character, Ahmed Mohamed, his fellow student at the University of South Florida.
Mohamed was the one with the how-to video on blowing things up. He was the one who decided to pack his trunk with plastic pipes stuffed with potassium nitrate and sugar. He was the one playing Mr. Big-Shot.
Mohamed has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to providing material support to terrorists.
Megahed, a permanent U.S. resident whose family has lived here 11 years, made one bad judgment, namely, to hang out with Mohamed and to ride with him in his car to South Carolina, where they were arrested during a 2007 traffic stop.
Megahed says he doesn't even know what was in the trunk, and we can't prove any different — after all, none of his prints were on the stuff.
Last, there is no question that the feds are getting two bites at the apple, double jeopardy or not. They seem determined to Get Him. Is this sour grapes? Sure looks like it.
So, why isn't this a slam-dunk for letting him go at once? Because the standards for deportation are different. As hard as I try, I am not entirely comfortable that driving around South Carolina in the middle of the night with a trunk full of weird stuff with a buddy who likes blow-things-up videos was just fun and games.
Let an immigration judge decide.