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Wayne County IT Director Sentenced For Bribery And Extortion

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DETROIT (WWJ) – A former top Wayne County official has been sentenced to 41 months in prison for obstructing an FBI bribery and extortion probe.

Zayd Allebban was accused of pressuring a vendor to lie to agents and manufacturing evidence to impede the investigation, reports Newsradio 950’s Stephanie Davis.  He was found guilty in February.

Allebban was once the director of the Wayne County Information Technology Department.  Now, he will spend over three years in prison for his convictions on two counts of obstruction of justice.

His boss, Tahir Kazmi, pled guilty in his case. The two are among four in the Ficano administration who have faced corruption charges.

Following is Allebban’s statement, which he read to the court during his sentencing.  The statement was sent to WWJ Newsradio 950/CBS Detroit by his sister, Emann Allebban.

Defendant’s Statement

Sentencing Hearing

Zayd Allebban

Your honor, I understand that the typical posture of a defendant at a

sentencing hearing is one of contrition, remorse, or regret – sentiments

that, whether genuine or contrived, are expressed with the goal of

leniency in mind. However, those sentiments do not reflect my feelings,

your honor, for two reasons. Firstly, if I were to express those

sentiments, I will for the first time be lying in your courtroom and lying

to you. Unlike others who have traversed your courtroom in this case, I

take my oath to the truth very seriously; it is not bound by where I sit or

which hand I raise. And secondly, your honor, I am not looking to

manufacture artificial words that will earn leniency because I firmly

believe that the truth alone will best equip you to determine a just

punishment.

Your honor, entering this process, I expected certain disappointments.

Firstly, disappointment in the man who unnecessarily pulled me into a

mess of his own making, disguised it in honesty, effectively told lies

about my involvement, and then used me as the currency for his own

freedom. Mr. Shisha was an enormous disappointment. Then, when I

expected Mr. Kazmi to tell the same story to the government that he told

me and instead admitted to criminal behavior, that was a disappointment

– made worse by the fact that he had an opportunity, amidst his lies and

crimes, to do something noble. He had an opportunity to make clear to

you, the jury and the government that no conspiracy existed and that I did

not even know – to the day I was arrested – that anything illegal or

improper had ever happened. But cowardice dictated his actions, just

like it did Shisha’s, and he passed on that opportunity to do the right

thing, encouraged without a doubt by the government who dangled his

own sentencing above his head to drive his decision to remain silent.

But your honor, my largest disappointment blindsided me – and this may

be more of my naivety showing. I was most disappointed in my

government – the stewards of justice sitting behind me. And although

there is, I’m sure, much to be disappointed about in the quality of their

investigative work leading up to my arrest, I’ll start further down the

timeline.

Mr. Shisha first approached them presumably with a story of

victimization and extortion. Then suddenly, Kazmi doesn’t plead guilty

to extortion, but bribery. On the surface, it may seem that the true story

doesn’t matter much as long as the bad guy gets caught. But the real

story, the nitty gritty details, what was said to who, who did or knew

what…. those details do matter, your honor – I am proof that they matter.

Your honor, the prosecution’s case revolved around these conversations

between Mr. Shisha and I. I’m sure they fully expected that I would try to

minimize those meetings and shift focus elsewhere. Your honor, I would

never run from those transcripts. Those transcripts are the evidence of my

innocence. Those conversations are saturated with my reassurances to

Shisha that he had done nothing illegal, to always tell the truth, to hold

his head high because he was an honest businessman, and that I wouldn’t

even be helping them if they had done anything improper. But somehow,

all those statements escaped their consideration.

Nonetheless, Shisha tried again to sell his victim story in court, under

oath, and at the direction of the prosecution. Your honor, it didn’t take a

federal investigator trained in the art of uncovering public corruption to

reveal him as a liar and a criminal – it took an astute attorney a couple of

hours in cross examination. That’s all it took, sir, for Shisha’s house of

lies and deception to come crumbling down around him. In fact, he was

so discredited and exposed as a crook that the prosecution had to retreat

from their star witness against me – how telling is that? How pathetic it

is, your honor, that fundamental questions about Shisha’s companies,

activities, contracts, and profits weren’t posed by the very investigators

who explicitly stated on the witness stand that those are exactly the types

of things that they were investigating. The prosecutor himself seemed

surprised to learn that Shisha’s shell company, VM Logic, had

coincidentally profited exactly double the money he gave Kazmi – who

held 50% of that criminal enterprise. Now after Shisha’s crimes were

made clear – and this may be more of my naivety showing again – I

drove home with Mr. Faraj that afternoon with a smile I couldn’t wipe

off, but he maintained the same focused, stoic look that he always has.

“This was a good day, Haytham. Doesn’t this change everything?” He

knew nothing would change, but let me instead see it with my own eyes

the following day in court. You see, your honor, I fully expected the

prosecution to take a step back and reconsider their position against me –

a position that had been crafted by the lies of a single person who had

everything to gain by selling these lies to them. But our Department of

Justice, our stewards of justice, pressed forward unwaivered. To speak

frankly, it blew my mind that the truth presented itself so clearly in court,

yet it did not move them. And Mr. Shisha, sir, to this day, is a free man,

charged with no crimes, when there is another county contractor in this

very same investigation who had committed the very same crime with

another county official, who was charged and pled guilty to offering

bribes.

Your honor, I’ll mention one more painfully obvious truth that the

investigators missed. A cursory look into my background, my family, my

friends, or even my coworkers would have defined my lack of propensity

to be involved in anything illegal or unethical. Mr. Shisha and Mr. Kazmi

hid their crimes from me purposefully – they knew how I’d react and

that’s why they didn’t tell me the truth. They knew that had they shared

the true nature of their activities with me, their best case scenario would

have been that I simply walk away. The more likely scenario would have

been that I walk away and walk straight to the investigators and say,

“you’re looking for corruption? Here’s two crooks for you.” You see,

your honor, my belief in the honesty of these two men did not stem from

my friendship with them. My friendship with them stemmed from my

belief in their honesty and decency. The moment I were to find out that

honesty was a ruse, that friendship and loyalty disappears.

And that, your honor, highlights again the greatest travesty in all this: the

real bad guy has been promised protection from prosecution. The man

who profited from multi-million dollar contracts that he admitted were

illegally obtained is sitting free of charges. And instead, the only county

employee who took nothing, who knew nothing, who covered his own $2

cup of coffee when he sat with a contractor, was not only charged, but

somehow convicted.

Your honor, I absolutely take responsibility for my actions. With that

said, your honor, this courtroom and the hallway behind it are full of

people for whom I would do the exact same thing, albeit with a little

more vetting this time, I’m sure, but I would do it nonetheless. Let me be

clear, sir – if two good people, your honor, approached me today, so

worried about something that they were considering taking their own

lives, and I had no reason to doubt their honesty, I would help them

without hesitation. That decision, as was my decision a year and half ago,

would be driven not by friendship or loyalty, but compassion, humanity.

Not even the prosecutor himself would stand here and minimize the

importance of that quality. After all, it was the prosecutor himself who,

during a pause in trial, walked over and requested that my attorney not

ask a potential witness about money he had received from Shisha – yes,

your honor, there were three county employees that took bribes from

Shisha – and the prosecutor cited “humanitarian reasons” to leave that

unmentioned. But of course, it didn’t matter, because I had already asked

my lawyer to exclude that information if we called this person as a

witness – simply because it came from the mouth of Shisha and I was not

going to be part of destroying another life on the credibility of a crook

like him. But set that aside, again, I think the prosecutor understands

humanity.

Your honor, I will never let this experience, the lies of Mr. Shisha, the

wrecklessness of the investigators, and the indifference of the prosecutor

change that about me. If I let a year of endless damning press releases

from the government, foregone conclusions by the media, and the harsh

judgment of thousands of residents of this region chip away at what it

took my poor parents a lifetime to instill in me, I have lost. Forget my

legal standing, I’ve lost something greater. And I thank God every day

that I live in a country where there is still a path to exoneration, to

clearing my name. Because when you grow up in a simple life, live

paycheck-to-paycheck, and have nothing to show for years of education

and employment but a foreclosed house that is $60k underwater and a

wispy-thin savings account, all I have is my name, my credibility, the

humanity that drives the decisions I make.

Your honor, to conclude, I wanted to also apologize if we created any

confusion this morning with the time we requested to speak. You see,

my attorney is comprehensive in his work and had arranged to have a

couple of friends of mine speak today about me, my community service,

character, and so on. But I pulled the rug out from under him earlier this

morning before we began. So I apologize to those of you who had

prepared something to say and I am truly humbled by your support. And

I did that for a simple reason, your honor. When this case began a year

and half ago and I had a single conspiracy charge against me, the USA’s

office approached me to make a plea deal. I refused them. They

approached again with a sweeter deal, I refused them. They approached

again – I refused them. And they approached one final time with a team

of FBI agents in an attempt to convince me that their evidence against me

was insurmountable – I respectfully declined to even sit down with them.

Because, your honor, an innocent man has only the hope of exoneration

at trial to cling to when the DoJ is raining the full weight of the

government down on him. Right is right, your honor, and wrong is

wrong. The space between these four walls is the only place in the

country where those words will always ring true. Of course, after I

refused all their attempts, the USA’s office just piled on more charges. I

don’t know if you hunt, your honor, but birdshot spreads wide in the

hopes that one of those little pellets will take the target down. I suppose

they operate much the same way.

Your honor, I wouldn’t plead guilty because I would never admit a false

guilt in exchange for some sentencing leniency. I would never

compromise my principles to shave a few months or even years off my

sentence. Much the same way, your honor, I also won’t parade my

character and put my altruism on a pedestal for leniency today. I am not

unique in my service to those in need. Others who have the same

commitment would say as well that service for the community is for the

community, not for me to barter away in court.

My attorney asked me to think of my girls when I make this decision,

your honor. I paused briefly and realized that I am thinking of my two

little girls, your honor. Because when those two beautiful little girls, in

eight or ten years, decide to Google their father’s name, and learn about

the investigation that ensnared him, understand his commitment and

confidence in the truth, and internalize the lessons they extract from that,

that will give them so much more than a few months of my absence will

ever take away from them. To put it simply, your honor, if you decide a

sentence of custody is just, my slumber on that prison pillow will be

restful, because I know where I stand with myself, your honor, and in

front of God.

I simply ask, your honor, that you render a sentence that I deserve – no

more than that and no less.

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