Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Once-Tagged Terrorist Fights Back

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Once-Tagged Terrorist Fights Back

Article excerpt

Byline: Jim Schoettler, Times-Union staff writer

He beat the rap as a suspected terrorist when prosecutors concluded he had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks.

He has held up through trips to at least six jails, two self-described beatings by police, and at least one attack by an inmate over the past eight months. He has been ready to return to his Ivory Coast home under an agreement to be deported but has been sitting in the Duval County jail awaiting a resolution from the government that has held him for so long.

Now, Jean-Toney Oulai is preparing to fight back.

Rather than strike a deal with prosecutors that would quickly lead to his freedom -- but with a felony criminal record -- Oulai is scheduled to appear in federal court today to ask a judge to suppress statements police say were lies about his immigration status.

Wade Rolle, Oulai's attorney, said he will argue Oulai's arrest at Jacksonville International Airport Sept. 14 was illegal and that he is only guilty of overstaying his student visa. Though that immigration violation would still get Oulai deported, Rolle said the felony charge of lying to authorities is far more serious and Oulai doesn't want the rap.

If Oulai wins the suppression motion, there will be no reason to continue pursuing the charge and he could be on his way home in a week, Rolle said. If he loses, Oulai is prepared to spend more time in jail and stand trial next month to clear his name, Rolle said.

Even if he is convicted, Oulai has already served enough time in jail in the past eight months to gain his freedom. The sentencing guidelines call for a maximum penalty of six months.

"Mr. Oulai is frustrated. He does not want to be labeled a criminal," Rolle said. "He would like to be free. He would like to be home. But that won't be the case until he receives justice. …

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