Skip to comments.Fingerprint links Oregon with Spain
Posted on 05/08/2004 2:36:59 PM PDT by Grampa Dave
Fingerprint links Oregon with Spain
Officials have been watching Brandon Mayfield of Aloha since two weeks after the March 11 Madrid terror bombings
Saturday, May 08, 2004 LES ZAITZ, NOELLE CROMBIE, JOSEPH ROSE and MARK LARABEE
Federal investigators are examining whether a Washington County lawyer shipped materials later used by terrorists to blow up four commuter trains in Madrid on March 11, a law enforcement official said Friday.
Brandon Mayfield, 37, a former U.S. Army officer and Aloha father of three, was linked to the attack that killed 191 people by a fingerprint on a bag containing detonating devices. The bag was discovered by Spanish investigators inside a van that was near the train station where three of the trains originated, officials said.
Officials told The Oregonian that the U.S. investigation of Mayfield started within two weeks of the Madrid attacks and that Mayfield was put under physical and electronic surveillance. Spanish authorities also had pressed their American counterparts to pick up Mayfield for reasons the officials won't explain.
The FBI is also investigating Mayfield's links to other Portland-area residents who haven't been charged, officials said.
One of Mayfield's attorneys, Tom Nelson, stressed again Friday that Mayfield had not been arrested and is not a defendant in a criminal case. He repeated accusations that the government has leaked damaging information about Mayfield that should be confidential.
"They've painted him largely as associated with terrorists," Nelson said. "The government has been operating very cavalierly with his life and his livelihood."
Mayfield was detained Thursday at his West Slope law office by federal agents and is being held as a material witness under a long-standing federal statute designed to keep secret the identity of grand jury witnesses.
He isn't likely to be taken before a federal grand jury soon because investigators anticipate he would not talk voluntarily, and he won't be given immunity to talk, officials said. Instead, the arrest gives the FBI time to finish their ongoing investigation.
The FBI and federal prosecutors were forced to quickly detain Mayfield -- long before they had planned, several officials said. Although they attempted to tighten the amount of information getting out about the case, authorities eventually decided to detain Mayfield after Spanish authorities leaked news of his connection to the Madrid bombing to reporters in Europe.
Mayfield appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Portland on Thursday afternoon and is now being held at a Multnomah County jail under a false name.
The material witnesses law is most commonly used when potential witnesses may be reluctant to cooperate, in danger or likely to flee.
Prosecutors used the same law to detain Maher "Mike" Hawash, a former Intel software engineer now serving a federal prison sentence for a failed plot to fight against U.S troops in Afghanistan. He was held as a material witness for weeks before he was charged with a crime by prosecutors in April 2003.
"I would not assume that this is another Mike Hawash case," Nelson said. "I rather feel that they will not bring charges" against Mayfield.
Nelson said authorities told Mayfield the reason he's been held, but he has not been interviewed extensively. Nelson refused to elaborate on specifics of the case, citing a court order. But he said he had a private conversation with Mayfield on Thursday at Portland's federal courthouse.
"He was calm, very concerned and still very sharp," Nelson said. "He's trained as a lawyer, and he's a good lawyer. He was bouncing ideas off me."
He said Mayfield has not been to Spain and "we certainly can prove that he was in his office and meeting with clients" at the time of the attacks in Madrid.
Nelson, who does not specialize in criminal law, said Mayfield is now represented by the Federal Public Defenders Office in Portland. His attorney there did not return phone calls.
FBI interviews family
When AvNell Mayfield's dogs began barking Thursday afternoon, she looked outside and saw two FBI agents walking up to her front porch in Hutchinson, Kan., northwest of Wichita.
They stayed for 30 minutes, asking questions about her son Brandon. She said the agents wanted to know where Brandon Mayfield had gone to school and if he had been to Spain.
"There were a lot of general questions about Brandon, but every once in a while they would ask if he traveled a lot," she said. "I was in shock. They wouldn't tell me what was going on."
Watching the agents walk away from the house, AvNell Mayfield said she had a weird feeling and called her son's house in Aloha. His wife, Mona, picked up.
"She was hysterical," AvNell Mayfield said. "The FBI people had been dumping out drawers in their house, confiscating computers, taking the kids' video games and going through papers. They had already trashed his law office."
AvNell Mayfield said Mona, who works as her husband's paralegal, is a highly intelligent woman and "strong mother" who speaks many languages. Before meeting Brandon, Mona lived in Paris and London and traveled with her father, who was a college professor, AvNell Mayfield said.
She said Brandon is a soft-spoken, intelligent man who has repeatedly talked about his disdain for the USA Patriot Act, a controversial law passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that gave law enforcement agents sweeping new authority.
"He felt it was a violation of people's civil rights" and reminded him of when Japanese Americans were interned after Pearl Harbor and abuses by Nazis during World War II, she said. "But he wasn't angry enough to blow up people."
After 9/11, she said, "Brandon said he was concerned about his children and his wife being targeted."
Mayfields felt watched
Mayfield's father, Bill Mayfield, said his son suspected he was under surveillance by federal authorities.
"He told me over the phone that he figured they were probably watching him," said Bill Mayfield, who lives in Halstead, Kan., where Brandon Mayfield grew up. He was upset about it, the senior Mayfield said, but he "expected it because he's Muslim, plain and simple."
Nelson, the attorney, said it was the family's impression that their Aloha house had been broken into twice recently, though nothing had been stolen. Once, a dead bolt that they never used was locked, and another time, they came home and found digital clocks and the VCR blinking, like someone had tripped the breaker.
"They called and asked the power company about outages, but there hadn't been any," Nelson said. "It's a reasonable assumption that the FBI may have been involved, though I certainly cannot prove that."
Family members said Mayfield hasn't been to Spain and it's been 11 years since he traveled outside the United States, when he and his family took a monthlong trip to Egypt.
"He has nothing to do with Spain," Bill Mayfield said. "He has nothing to do with terrorists. He's a lawyer."
Army was way out of Kansas
In high school, Mayfield was a sprinter on the Halstead track team. But he didn't have many other interests beyond "finding a way out of Halstead," said Mayfield's younger sister, Amy Sikes.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army, and Sikes said the family rarely heard from or saw Mayfield during his first four-year stint in the military.
According to Mayfield's service record, he joined the Army Reserve in Kansas City, Mo., in March 1985 as a combat telecommunications center operator. He enlisted for active duty in July 1985 and re-upped in September 1988 while at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Mayfield met Mona Mohamed on a blind date in 1987, while still stationed at Fort Lewis. Later that year, he brought her home to Kansas, Sikes said. His family liked her from the start. Above all else, she was good-spirited, Sikes said.
"Really bubbly and fun," said Sikes, who is 12 years younger than Mayfield, the only girl among six children. "I was young, and I remember her teaching us some kids' songs."
The Mayfields also learned that Mona was a devout Muslim. Mona was 5 when she and her younger sister moved from Egypt to Washington state with their parents, Sikes said. When Brandon Mayfield told his parents and siblings he was converting to her faith, the clan of non-churchgoers had no problem with it, Sikes said.
"Mona was the love of his life, and he wanted to please her," she said. "Brandon also did what he could to better himself the way he sees fit, and that's how he saw taking her religion."
Mayfield left the Army in August 1989. He graduated from Portland State University in August 1992 with a bachelor of science degree in general studies, a spokeswoman said. The next month he re-enlisted in the Army as an officer, serving some time in Bitburg, Germany, with the 5th Battalion, 7th Division Air Defense Artillery. He ended his Army career as a 2nd lieutenant in May 1994.
He entered the Washburn University School of Law in the fall 1996 semester. During the fall 1998 and spring 1999 semesters he transferred to Lewis and Clark College. His law degree was issued by Washburn on his 33rd birthday, May 15, 1999. He was admitted to the Oregon State Bar in April 2000.
Former partners express surprise
Former law partners were stunned to learn of Mayfield's arrest.
"The evidence they found is something that warrants investigation," said Richard S. Diaz, a partner in the Newport law firm Macpherson Gintner Gordon & Diaz, which hired Mayfield in spring of 2000. "But at this point, he's only been detained as a material witness. He might have some way of being able to point to the culprit."
Mayfield came to the firm right out of law school and was inexperienced but competent, Diaz said. The young lawyer handled 36 cases in Lincoln County Circuit Court -- mostly divorce, custody and probate matters with a smattering of minor criminal proceedings -- between Aug. 11, 2000, and June 18, 2002, records show.
Diaz said he did not learn of Mayfield's faith until after he was hired and "it's not like he was going around espousing radical Muslim views."
It's clear to Diaz that the current allegations warrant further investigation. "Whether intentionally or not," he said, "he came in contact with somebody that was more closely connected with what happened in Madrid."
But he added, "I don't think it proves any intention or direct involvement."
Others who know Mayfield say he is a family man and struggling lawyer dedicated to building his practice.
"I am very, very worried about this," his father said. "This thing is completely hokey. Anybody that knows Brandon, knows anything about him at all, knows how hokey this is. But the FBI is holding him . . . and that scares the devil out of me."
Steven Beaven, Kathleen Blythe, Bryan Denson and Lori Tobias contributed to this story. Mark Larabee: 503-294-7664; firstname.lastname@example.org
So "Spanish authorities" tried to drop Mayfield the hint to disappear, but he din't do it quickly enough.