Tanveer Hussain suffered injustice

Part 1 of 2

Tanveer Hussain, left, is led out of the St. Armand Town Hall on March 1 by Saranac Lake village Patrolman Luke Cromp. Hussain, visiting from India to race in the prior weekend's World Snowshoe Championships, was arraigned in town court on charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. (Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)

Tanveer Hussain’s case is officially closed, but in the interest of justice, I must present some facts that have not been publicized, including what I believe to be improper acts by public officials, and rebut the press release from Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague.

Tanveer, a non-English-speaking native of Kashmir, India, was arrested March 1 and charged with endangering the welfare of a minor and sexual abuse. The arrest was based on the accusation of a 12-year-old girl, the somewhat contradictory statement of her friend, a 12-year-old boy, and of Facebook messages allegedly between Tanveer and the girl.

The girl’s Facebook profile had her registered as a 34-year-old woman, born Sept. 9, 1982, and “interested in men.” She wrote Tanveer in Facebook messages that she and her mother were originally from Kashmir, that “My moms and step father are doctors,” that her mother was currently visiting India — “My mom but she’s in India right now with some of my family” — and that she herself had traveled to India: “It’s fine we can learn together like I can learn Hindi since I haven’t been to Kashmir since I was 7.” None of this is true. We do not know this girl, but these and other false statements should have made the DA question the truthfulness of her other statements.

This girl, and her family, need whatever help and support our community can provide. Tanveer also is deserving of fairness and support.

We, and a fluent interpreter, have reviewed the recordings of Tanveer’s approximately four-hour police interrogation, where Tanveer’s coach was interpreter. The Miranda rights translation was extremely poor and incomplete, with large portions skipped by the interpreter or merely repeated in English. During this interrogation, the police repeatedly told him that kissing the girl was “no big deal” and that they had a video recording of the kissing. None of this was true. For four hours they badgered him with these untruths trying to get him to admit he had committed these acts, but Tanveer steadfastly maintained that he did not kiss her.

That night, Tanveer was offered a deal: Plead guilty to a misdemeanor, pay a $250 fine, and go home the next day as scheduled. He declined, maintaining and wanting to prove his innocence. Then this ongoing nightmare really began.

Tanveer was arraigned in St. Armand town court and remanded to Essex County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail. After consulting with Tanveer’s court-appointed attorney, my wife and I bailed him out on Friday, March 3. Tanveer’s release was delayed for over one-and-a-half hours, during which time the Essex County DA was informed that Tanveer was being bailed out. When Tanveer got in our car, he thought it was over and that he could go home the next day. He couldn’t understand us, so we called an interpreter who explained that it was not over. When we arrived at our house in Saranac Lake, there were two police cars and officers waiting to re-arrest Tanveer. He was shackled and taken to the police station, and then to town court in Bloomingdale. Sprague wanted his passport. She could have just asked for it, or asked us to bring him to the court. But no, intimidation and the instilling of fear was the DA’s method, it seemed to me. Tanveer’s bail conditions restricted him to Essex and Franklin counties.

Tanveer’s preliminary hearing, commonly known as the probable cause hearing, was scheduled for March 6, postponed to March 7, to have the DA adjourn this evidentiary hearing. Tanveer was again offered the deal to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge, pay a $250 fine and go home. Tanveer again refused, stating he wished to prove his innocence. His attorney requested that the bail conditions be amended to allow him to visit New York City where there are other Kashmiris, two of whom were present in the courtroom, but the DA objected, stating he was a flight risk. Repeatedly over several months, the DA used the fact that Tanveer had a plane reservation to India for the day after we bailed him out as an indication of flight risk. Each time the DA’s office spouted this misleading statement, we pointed out that this was his original return ticket, purchased before he left India, a requirement for entry into the U.S. If he was going to leave, he could have just paid $250 and be gone legally, with his passport.

At this hearing, Tanveer’s attorney asked that the case be moved to county court. A later motion to amend the bail conditions submitted to the county court was refused since, by law, the county court does not have jurisdiction until indictment. The town court no longer had the files, so they both claimed lack of jurisdiction. Would the town and county courts deny having jurisdiction if Tanveer had violated bail conditions?

When we arrived back at our house from St. Armand town court, there were two law officers waiting in our driveway to “talk” with my wife and me. They interrogated us as to where we had obtained information about Tanveer’s Facebook messages (from Tanveer’s Facebook) and other information. In a forceful way, we were told not to look into this any further and that we should not attempt to learn any more information about what had occurred. The lead officer told me, “Kristy Sprague has her eye on you” and that “being a village trustee will not protect you.” We were told to not mention this conversation to anyone. A few hours after they left, I related the conversation to a trusted member of the press, in confidence. Just in case something did happen, I wanted a contemporaneous record of this intimidation by those who are supposed to protect and serve.

New York law states, “The defendant has a right to a prompt hearing upon the issue of whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant the court in holding him for the action of a grand jury.” Unfortunately, “prompt” is not defined. Tanveer was not given this legally required opportunity to such a hearing where the defense could cross-examine and refute questionable testimony and evidence, if any. If we hadn’t bailed him out, with his court-appointed lawyer’s blessing, he would have had this hearing within six days of arrest, based on another New York state law.

Richard Shapiro lives in Saranac Lake. The second and last part of this commentary will be published Tuesday.