Mo. AG's office joins prosecution of Saudi student

July 11, 2013 - 8:35 PM

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A special prosecutor has asked a judge to delay the trial of a Saudi national accused of paying his roommate to kill a central Missouri bar owner, saying he needs more time to prepare.

Ziyad Abid, whose student visa was revoked after he was arrested Sept. 5 and could no longer attend classes at the University of Central Missouri, is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the Sept. 1 shooting death of Warrensburg bar owner Blaine Whitworth.

Reginald Singletary Jr., 28, who had been living with Abid, admitted shooting Whitworth but said Abid paid him to do it, investigators said. Singletary is facing the same charges as Abid, and both have pleaded not guilty.

Assistant Attorney General David Hansen entered his appearance as special prosecutor Tuesday and filed a motion seeking a delay in the trial, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 20. Hansen said Gov. Jay Nixon's office directed the attorney general to get involved at the request of Johnson County prosecutor Lynn Stoppy.

Abid, 24, is being held without bond after Circuit Judge Michael Wagner ruled in April that $2 million wired into the court clerk's bank account by the Saudi government did not meet bond stipulations set by Circuit Judge Jacqueline Cook on Nov. 30 before she recused herself, handed the case over to Wagner and retired.

Cook, Stoppy and defense attorneys all contend that the Missouri Constitution requires Abid to be released on bond because he is not charged with a capital crime. A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office declined to say whether the attorney general agrees with the county prosecutor.

"We do not comment on pending cases," spokeswoman Nanci Gonder said.

Cook's ruling required bond to be posted by a licensed bail bond agent with proven resources to cover the $2 million in case Abid were to flee the country or be deported. Wagner said the Saudi government is not a bond agent and ordered Abid to be held without bond.

Defense attorneys asked Missouri's Western District Court of Appeals to remove Wagner from the case, arguing that he was violating the state constitution and is biased against Abid because of his nationality. The court denied that request June 13, noting Wagner had offered to hold another bond hearing.

Wagner held that hearing on July 2 but has not yet issued a ruling, though he told attorneys he would make a decision quickly.

Koster's office represented Wagner before the appeals court, and now will be helping prosecute Abid's case before that same judge. Gonder said those are two routine, separate legal actions and do not represent a conflict of interest.

Before setting bond last year, Cook said she was concerned that Abid was a flight risk and could be deported by federal immigration agents if he were released.

Defense attorney John Osgood, a former U.S. attorney, argued in court documents that the Justice Department would delay deportation proceedings "because of the nature of the state charges and negative fallout that would surely occur were Mr. Abid deported prior to facing charges."

Prosecutors have suggested no motive nor publicly documented any evidence beyond Singletary's statement to detectives that Abid was involved.

Defense attorneys contend in court documents that Singletary, who was fired as a bouncer at Whitworth's bar a week before the shooting, was badgered by interrogators into pinning the crime on Abid.

Wagner is scheduled to hear several motions Monday, but neither the continuance request nor bond decision is on the docket, according to online court records.