Jungle Jabbah Hires Bill Cosby, Meek Mill Lawyer in Appeal to Challenge Conviction, Sentence in U.S. Superior Court


PHILADELPHIA – More than 14 months after he was sentenced to 30 years by a U.S. Federal judge, convicted former Liberian rebel commander and Delaware County resident, Mohammed Jabbateh is challenging his conviction and sentence. Jabateh was found guilty in April last year by a U.S. jury on four counts of perjury and immigration fraud charges.

Report by Jackson Kanneh, Contributor

Recently, Jabbateh, who’s battlefield alias was “Jungle Jabbah” took steps to ensure that his case gets a new look at by appealing in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia is a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. 

Jabbateh has acquired a celebrity Philadelphia attorney Peter Goldberger, who according to Law.com, specializes in appeal and post-conviction matters, and he’s represented plenty of star clients. One of Goldberger’s most recent high-profile clients was Philly’s rapper Meek Mill. Goldberger joined the Bill Cosby defense team in his post-sexual assault conviction appeal. Goldberger helped Mill secure his release from prison.

“He appealed a long time ago but his attorneys just filed their briefs. We will have the opportunity to response after when look at the briefs,” said lead government prosecutor L.C.Wright, Jr.

When contacted Monday, a Goldberger office staffer promised a call back saying “So you need to talk to him in regards to the Jabbateh’s case?” 

The lead U.S. prosecutor said like many defenders after a conviction, Jabbateh did appeal on time. “Everybody appeals, it’s not unique to this case.” 

“In fact, Jabbateh is challenging the conviction and sentence,” Wright told our reporter.

Wright said the government is due to submit a response to Jabbateh’s appeal briefs on July 11. After that, “they will have the opportunity to response,” then its left with court to schedule oral arguments if it finds it fitting to do. 

When Jabbateh was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison, his family cried foul, accusing the judge of being too heavy-handed in his sentencing.

Jabbateh was charged with two counts of fraud in immigration documents and two counts of perjury stemming from statements he made in connection with his applications for asylum and later for legal permanent residence in the United States. He was held guilty on all four counts on 18 October. On 19 April 2018 he received a prison sentence of 30 years, the maximum he could have received and one of the longest sentences for immigration fraud in U.S. history. 

His family told reporters that the sentencing did not match the crime. 

In his indictment, the U.S. charged that Jabbateh provided false information to U.S. immigration authorities and procured asylum in the United States by fraud and willful misrepresentation of material fact by failing to disclose his role as a high-ranking rebel commander during the Liberian civil war or his criminal actions while in that position. According to the indictment, Jabbateh repeated similar false statements about his Liberian wartime activities in his application for legal permanent residence and falsely denied that he had secured asylum fraudulently, in violation of U.S. law.

Throughout Liberia’s first civil war (1989-1996), Mohammed Jabbateh was a commander or higher ranking officer in the rebel group The United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO) and later in the ULIMO-K when the ULIMO split into two factions.

Jabbateh was accused of either personally committing or ordering his troops to commit numerous mass atrocity crimes during his time as a higher ranking officer, including, but not limited to: 1) the murder of civilian noncombatants; 2) the sexual enslavement of women; 3) the public raping of women; 4) the maiming of civilian noncombatants; 5) the torturing of civilian noncombatants 6) the enslavement of civilian noncombatants; 7) the conscription of child soldiers; 8) the execution of prisoners of war; and 9) the desecration and mutilation of corpses; and 10) the killing of any person because of race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion. Jabbateh, like many other alleged Liberian war criminals, has never been held accountable for his wartime actions in any national or international court.

The sentencing judge Paul S. Diamond explained the legal basis for his sentencing calculation, outlined many of the atrocities recounted by victims and witnesses in their trial testimony, and ultimately concluded that this case “falls far outside the heartland for both perjury and fraud.” 

In his appeal, Jabbateh is challenging both his conviction and sentence but nothing specific from the briefs was disclosed.  

The Appellate jurisdiction is the power of an appellate court to review, amend and overrule decisions of a trial court or other lower tribunal. 

Most appellate courts simply review the lower court’s decision to determine whether the lower court made any errors in applying the law.

The appellate process begins after a lower court formally issues a verdict in a case. The process is started when one of the parties submits an appeal for review by a court of appellate jurisdiction. In Jabbateh case, his previous attorneys had 14 days to appeal the federal District Court decision but his lawyers just recently submitted supporting paperwork. 

Now a year later, Jabbateh, 52 is seeking a revision and possible reversal of his jury conviction, and his 30-year sentence. As a submitting party, his lawyers will argue that the lower court erred in applying the law or in conducting procedural aspects of the trial. 

Mohammed Jabbateh was convicted of four counts of fraud in immigration documents and perjury following a 10-day jury trial in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). 20 Liberian villagers flown in as witness and victims testified against the former ULIMO rebel general during the 10-day trial. 

Although the charges stemmed from false statements Jabbateh made to U.S. immigration officials when applying for asylum and lawful permanent residence, those false statements were the result of Jabbateh’s attempts to cover up what U.S. Assistant Prosecutor Nelson Thayer called “unthinkable wartime atrocities” he committed as a high-ranking rebel commander during Liberia’s first civil war. 

According to Swiss-based Civitas Maxima, which makes legal representation for victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, “immigration-related charges are becoming the go-to prosecution strategy for war criminals caught in the U.S. as they are more readily applied to such cases than more serious human rights or war crimes statutes, which often have jurisdictional limitations. But while charging immigration violations creates an opening for prosecutors to hold perpetrators accountable where they might otherwise evade justice, doing so challenges conventional federal sentencing practices and pushes the question of sentencing for these cases into largely uncharted territory.

In order to determine an appropriate sentence, courts consider not only the statutory penalty for the crimes of conviction, but also the sentencing range suggested by the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.  The Guidelines take into account the unique circumstances of a defendant’s crime, the charges themselves, and a defendant’s criminal history to provide an advisory sentencing range tailored to the specifics of a particular case.  Thus, while the statute sets the minimum and maximum penalty limits, the Guidelines advise where within that range the specifics of the defendant’s case might fall.  Calculating the applicable Guidelines range is the first step in all sentencing proceedings.  The court then has discretion to impose a sentence within the Guidelines or to deviate from its range if the court believes the Guidelines do not accurately reflect the defendant’s circumstances.”