In two editorials in THE BEE, in July of 2015 and March of 2016, we reported on inadequate response by the Oregon State Bar to attorney violations of legal ethics, as called to our attention by Sellwood-Westmoreland attorney Bill Henderson.
The previous reporting has led to a national legal ethics reporter, Stephanie Volin, to submit to THE BEE the results of her own investigation of the Oregon State Bar’s response to Saudi Arabian students charged with crimes in Oregon, and represented by attorney Ginger Mooney of Hood River, when the students disappeared from Oregon before trial.
THE BEE publishes the result of her investigation in the interest of justice. Here is her report.
Two and a half years ago, Fallon Smart, an Oregon high school student enjoying the last days of summer, was struck by a car driven by Abdulrahman Noorah, a college student in the United States, from Saudi Arabia.
Fallon died at the scene in the S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard area, surrounded by some of her family. Noorah was charged with Manslaughter in the First Degree.
Less than a year later, Noorah, who was out on bail but monitored by an ankle bracelet, disappeared from Oregon, and will never face justice administered by the courts of our country. Somehow, the system failed Fallon, her family, and the public.
In January of 2019, news emerged that a single attorney – Ginger Mooney of Hood River – had defended Noorah, and several other Saudi students who also fled while facing legal proceedings. Due to the media attention surrounding that revelation, a multi-agency government investigation began, to determine if the Saudi government had abetted the students’ disappearances.
The answer, of course, is yes. Who else would be able to provide new passports and identities, so that the men could board commercial flights back to their own country? Who else would even want to do that?
There is another question that is even more urgent, which nobody in the media or conducting the investigation has publicly asked: Exactly who in our country helped these students escape?
It’s a question that Fallon’s stepmother, Tiffany Quincy, who lives in Southwest Portland, wants answered as well. “There is a lot of attention on how the Saudi government is allowed to shuttle their citizens out of the U.S., and how appalling it is. Why is there not just as much disgust for the fact that American citizens are helping them do it? The Saudis can’t do it without help. [Mooney] knows something; why isn’t anyone doing something about it?”
As it happens, the records in Noorah’s case, and the others that Ginger Mooney defended, themselves offer up many surprising clues.
A day after his arrest, Noorah signed the last page of a “Motion for Release”. This signature is presumably authentic, as it was
Shortly thereafter, a second signature appeared, which bore little resemblance to the first. Five more would follow, including one on a “Waiver of Extradition”, all of which were filed with the court. These five did not resemble the authentic first signature at all – and only slightly resembled the second.
A State and Federal Court certified translator from New York, who also creates tutorials on the Arabic alphabet (and who wishes not to be identified), told this reporter, “It’s not the same signature at all. Personal signatures usually match totally every time. These don’t.”
However, what these incompatible signatures did resemble – strangely – was the signature of another of Mooney’s clients, Abdulaziz Al Duways, who was facing charges of Rape and Sexual Abuse in Polk County, just west of Salem, nearly two years earlier.
“Noorah’s and Al Duways’ signatures look curiously similar,” the translator continued, “although some differences can be found… It’s hard to tell if they’re signed by one person, or by two different persons. Both possibilities exist.”
If these similar signatures were indeed inauthentic, it is possible that an unknown signer was providing signatures for Mooney to file – to make it appear that the defendants were still in the country?
Unclaimed bail money
In Oregon, all defendants facing charges short of murder or treason are eligible to be released on bail. In Noorah’s case, there were many ups and downs regarding the setting of bail, otherwise known as “security”. Finally, though, the amount was set at $1 million.
The Saudi government then paid, through Mooney, a 10% “surety” for the full amount. That is, they paid $100,000 for Noorah’s release from jail.
Under Oregon statutes, once a defendant has “failed to appear” – as nearly all of Mooney’s Saudi student clients did – the court “shall enter an order declaring the entire security amount be forfeited.”
That meant that, in Noorah’s case, that after he fled, the judge should have ordered the Saudis to pay the full amount of $1 million. In Al Duways’ case, the judge should have ordered the Saudis to pay the full amount of $500,000.
And in a third Mooney case – a child pornography charge against Waleed Alharthi, in Benton County – the judge should have ordered the Saudis to pay the full amount of $500,000.
Incredibly, though, only in Benton County did the judge order a bail forfeiture – and then only for the 10% surety, rather than the full bail amount. That is, $50,000, instead of $500,000.
Even more peculiarly, the judges in Polk and Multnomah Counties failed to order any forfeiture at all – not even the 10% surety. That money cannot be forfeited by just checking a box on a bench warrant. It’s a statutory process, that strangely neither court followed.
The record of actions in Noorah’s case is a hard-to-follow jumble – especially early on, and likely by design. It’s not much of a “record” if nobody can follow it later.
Adding to the confusion was a protective order in September of 2016, mutually agreed to by the parties, which sealed any future “Close Street Supervision Reports”. Those reports were the means through which Noorah was to be monitored after his release.
The order – written by Mooney – stated that “implicit and explicit violent threats have been made publicly and privately against” Noorah, and that sealing the reports was necessary “for the safety of Defendant”.
Those records remain sealed today – even to Tiffany Quincy and her husband, Fallon’s father – despite the fact that Noorah’s flight from Oregon justice concluded all imminent risk or danger to him.
Ms. Quincy has lingering questions about Noorah’s supervision, and how nobody was apparently monitoring him on the day he fled. “He was classified as an extreme flight risk. They assured us that people were monitoring him around the clock. But they weren’t.”
Mooney hired her own attorney
Shortly after the news first broke about Mooney’s involvement in these Saudi student cases, she made the dramatic announcement that she was temporarily “shuttering” her office in Hood River, allegedly due to dozens of terrifying threats triggered by the national media attention.
In a January 2019 telephone call, which Mooney made to the Hood River’s Sheriff and Police dispatcher, she was crying as she described these alleged threats – yet she seemed, strangely, more concerned about receiving protection for her office, than for herself or her home, which was where she was calling from.
Three more phone calls to police from Mooney would follow in January. In one, she claimed that her attorney, Allison Rhodes, was also receiving death threats, and that the FBI was investigating.
It would be very risky for Mooney to manufacture material to support false claims of “threats” and “danger,” especially when dealing with the FBI. However, claims of “threats” and “danger” did get records sealed in Noorah’s case. Was that Mooney’s plan for her own office, where evidence of criminal conduct could possibly exist? Was “shuttering her office” code for an anticipated visit from Federal authorities?
Neither Mooney nor Rhodes would comment for this article; but Mooney has previously denied any personal criminal wrongdoing in the Saudi student cases.
The public deserves to know what really happened in these cases. It’s too easy to be angry only with the Saudi government, who are simply acting the way they and other countries generally do when their citizens get into trouble in other countries.
This investigative report was written by Stephanie Volin-McNett, a freelance writer based in New Jersey, who writes on matters that affect Oregon and its legal community, such as attorney ethics, and corruption in the judiciary and the state bar.