Fort Dix convict wants new trial

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (AP) - December 31, 2008 Serdar Tatar and four other men were convicted by a federal jury in Camden of conspiring to kill military personnel. Authorities said they were considering attacking soldiers but had not hashed out exact plans.

Tatar, a 25-year-old Philadelphia convenience store manager, gave an FBI informant a map of Fort Dix that he took from his father's pizza shop near the Army installation.

But in a legal filing made Monday, Tatar's lawyer, Richard Sparaco, said that doesn't mean he was part of a plot with any of the other defendants.

"It is indisputable that the government failed to produce any direct evidence that the defendant Tatar had any conversation whatsoever with Mohamad Shnewer, Dritan Duka, Eljvir Duka or Shain Duka which would support any finding that a conspiracy existed in which there was a plan to attack Fort Dix or any other American military base and kill American soldiers," Sparaco wrote.

The lawyer said the judge should overturn the guilty verdict against Tatar, a Turkish immigrant who could face life in prison or hold a new trial for him.

"There exists a serious danger that an innocent person has been wrongfully convicted by the jury," Sparaco said in his legal filing.

Sparaco said Tatar produced the map only after the informant, Mahmoud Omar, had asked him for it over the course of several weeks. But even then, the lawyer said, Tatar didn't know what Omar was planning to do with it.

At one point during the ordeal, Tatar told Philadelphia police that he had been approached for a map. Prosecutors told jurors that was an attempt to figure out whether Omar was working for the government, but Sparaco said it was an effort to alert authorities about a danger.

Testimony in the trial stretched from October until mid-December, then the jury of eight women and four men deliberated for six days before delivering its verdict.

All five men were convicted Dec. 22 of conspiracy and acquitted on attempted murder charges. All except Tatar were also found guilty of weapons offenses. Sentencing is scheduled for April 22 and 23.

Appeals are likely from the other men.

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