Patrice Lumumba Ford, a former Portland State University student, will be in court today pleading for a closed trial.
Ford was indicted on Oct. 3, arrested the next day and charged with four crimes.
In a press conference Oct. 4, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Ford and five others arrested were charged with conspiracy to levy war against the United States, conspiracy to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations, conspiracy to contribute services to al-Qaeda and the Taliban and possession of firearms in furtherance of crimes of violence.
Ford and his attorney have expressed concern that media coverage may taint the jury pool.
“He [Ford] was a good student and a really nice person,” said Stephen Wadley, associate professor of Chinese at Portland State.
Wadley taught Ford Chinese for two terms in 1996-1997. After his time at Portland State, Ford finished his studies at a Chinese language school in Nanjing, China.
Wadley described Ford as one of the nicest people he has ever met.
If convicted for these crimes, the defendants could face up to life in prison.
According to ABC News on-line at the Oct. 16 bail hearing, Ford’s lawyer, Whitney Boise, requested the hearing be conducted in a closed courtroom.
Boise contended public influence could affect the jury pool. Presiding Judge Janice Stewart scheduled a hearing on the matter for this week.
Ford has more ties to Portland life than attending Portland State. He also worked for two of the city’s mayors.
Ford worked as an international-relations intern in 1986 for former Mayor Bud Clark. He worked for current Mayor Vera Katz in 1998 and again in 1999.
Ford also taught physical education at an Islamic school in Tigard and worked to resettle Muslim refugees.
Since his arrest, Ford’s entire life has been under scrutiny. His family lineage even raised some attention since Ford is the son of former Black Panther Kent Ford.
Ford’s former teacher warned against jumping to conclusions.
“We need to hear all the evidence before we make any judgments,” Wadley said.
Randy Blazak, an assistant professor in the sociology department and a resident terrorist expert, said that he had contrasting opinions about the recent focus on Portland’s alleged terrorist cell.
He said the word “cell” is misleading because it creates an image of low-level operatives serving a larger entity. Blazak said that definition in and of itself does not necessarily translate to actual ties to al-Qaeda or terrorist activities.
He gave the analogy of gang members to describe the works of the alleged Portland cell. Blazak asserts that hardcore gang members are not involved in a lot of illegal activities. He said it is the “wanna-be” gang members that are so destructive because they are trying to prove themselves. Blazak conjectured that the activities of the alleged Portland cell probably do not have direct al-Qaeda ties.
At one level, Blazak feels there is some overreacting so the government can justify the billions that have been spent in the name of terrorism. However, he notes that it takes only one Timothy McVeigh to ruin the day for a lot of people.