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A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted the former head of a San Jose electronics firm for allegedly soliciting the murder of U.S. District Judge William Alsup. While at Alameda County’s Santa Rita County Jail awaiting trial on federal perjury charges stemming from a high-profile patent case, Amr Mohsen, 57, allegedly asked an FBI informant to arrange a contract hit on Alsup, who had presided over both cases. The perjury case was supposed to go to trial this fall. Alsup was recused at the end of June, and that case, which includes Tuesday’s charges, is now pending in front of U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton. According to a search warrant affidavit, Mohsen asked a fellow inmate to kill Alsup. That inmate reported Mohsen to authorities and agreed to wear a wire. During the weekend of June 12, Mohsen allegedly told the inmate he wanted a “funeral” for the judge. “The [informant] stated that the murder of a federal judge was a big deal and would cost Mohsen $25,000. After hearing that price, Mohsen stated, �That’s very high. � I heard it’s more like ten [$10,000],’” the affidavit says. “Mohsen � instructed the [informant] to have someone �find out where his house is’ and �what are his patterns.’” The solicitation came after Mohsen had already enlisted the informant to intimidate witnesses the government planned to call in the perjury case, according to the affidavit. Mohsen told the informant to make threatening phone calls to witnesses and vandalize and set their cars on fire. FBI agents gave the informant a photograph of a burning car to show Mohsen, according to the affidavit. The alleged solicitations occurred while Mohsen’s case was delayed, as his attorneys explored an insanity defense and raised the issue of whether he was competent to stand trial. Mohsen was evaluated by a psychologist May 20. “Prior to that evaluation � Mohsen had a lengthy telephone conversation with his daughter, whom � is studying psychology in college. � Mohsen questioned his daughter at length about the definition and symptoms of psychosis,” according to the affidavit. After the psychologist found he was incompetent, Mohsen asked his daughter to send him copies of the books “A Beautiful Mind” and “Sybil.” Both are stories of mental illness. One of Mohsen’s attorneys, Benjamin Williams of Manchester Williams & Seibert in San Jose, said he had no comment “at this time” and was still reviewing the government’s superseding indictment. Mohsen is also represented by Edward Swanson of San Francisco’s Swanson & McNamara, who could not be reached. Tuesday’s indictment is the latest twist in a matter that began with 1998 patent litigation pitting Mohsen’s Aptix Corp. against QuickTurn Design Systems Inc. In that case Mohsen was found by Alsup to have fabricated parts of a key laboratory notebook. The judge referred the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office. Mohsen and his brother Aly Mohsen were indicted for perjury. Contempt charges were added after Amr Mohsen was caught with a passport and cash, even though he had been instructed not to leave the country. Amr Mohsen tried to get Alsup bounced from the perjury case, but that failed. Alsup did not return a call seeking comment. Attacks and threats tied to court proceedings are rare. And even when such cases come to light, it’s unusual to see a judge as the target. Much more common are threats against prosecutors and attacks on defense attorneys. Also more frequent is witness intimidation. Prosecutors say it can be difficult to try gang cases, for example, because of fear of reprisals. In response, many state and federal prosecutors have offered witness protection programs. The last time a threat against a Northern District jurist entered the public eye was in 1996, when Gerald Berry McKee was convicted of mailing death threats to U.S. District Judges Claudia Wilken and Senior Judge Samuel Conti. McKee also allegedly threatened Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Bornstein. But Ross Nadel, chief of the criminal division in the Northern District U.S. attorney’s office, said the accusations against Mohsen are much more serious than just writing a threatening letter. “An actual conspiracy is different,” Nadel said. The last time he recalled something like this, Nadel said, was back in the mid-1980s, when a man was convicted of soliciting the murder of a federal judge. That case was also built with a jailhouse informant. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Harris is prosecuting the case, U.S. v. Mohsen, 03-0095.

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