Alleged Fil-Am terror suspects face new challenges

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at May 01 2013 03:06 PM | Updated as of May 01 2013 11:06 PM

RIVERSIDE, California - Three of the 4 men accused of plotting to join a terrorist organization appeared at a Federal Courtroom on Monday afternoon for a status conference hearing.

Defense lawyers for Soheil Kabir, Ralph DeLeon, and Miguel Santana discussed access to evidence involving the accusations and moved the trial date from August to February of next year.

The evidence contains thousands of hours worth of transcripts and recordings between the FBI's confidential source and the defendants.

"That's a drop in the bucket compared to what's coming. We have at least 63 DVDs they dropped on us full of audio and video. In this case paper discovery is not going to be as bad as the audio and video discovery," explained Attorney Rob Scott who represents co-defendant Miguel Santana.

Lawyers also face another possible challenge: the fallout from the Boston bombing. Lawyers said that any time there's a similar high profile crime it may affect a current case because of on-going sentiments.

DeLeon and Santana share similar backgrounds with the Boston bombing suspects.

Like the Tsarnaev brothers, DeLeon and Santana are foreign born legal immigrants who converted to Islam as young adults. DeLeon was an accomplished student athlete. He spent time at mosques and online researching the Islamic faith, but the similarities end there.

While federal authorities claim DeLeon and his friends were en route to Afghanistan to train for a terror group, the Boston bombing suspects carried out their deadly plot and a Republican lawmaker is now proposing tighter surveillance on the Muslim community.

The defense and DeLeon's family have maintained that Ralph never had any violent intentions and may have been set up by the informant.

"You're always concerned about that. I mean it’s a hot button issue anyway, and then something in everybody's recent memory just makes it even worse," explained Scott.

DeLeon's attorney Randolph Driggs declined to comment after the hearing, but says DeLeon is doing fine while detained in the Los Angeles federal prison.