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The Oregonian: Saudi government helped Fallon Smart’s killer flee the US

Posted by on December 27th, 2018 at 4:04 pm

The Oregonian reported on Monday that the Saudi Arabian government was actively involved in helping Abdulrahman Noorah flee the United States and circumvent justice for his role in the death of 15-year old Fallon Smart.

Noorah is the man who drove recklessly down Southeast Hawthorne Blvd in August 2016 and struck Smart as she tried to cross at 43rd Avenue.

Almost immediately after we first reported on this horrific tragedy, many in the community predicted Noorah would evade authorities. He was in Portland on a student visa living off a monthly stipend paid for by the Saudi government. On June 12th, 2017 just before his scheduled trial, Noorah removed his GPS monitoring device and went missing. That wasn’t surprising to prosecutors or Smart’s family — both of whom considered Noorah a major flight risk. He would likely have still been in custody if the Saudi government hadn’t paid off $100,000 of his $1 million bail.

Here’s how Noorah’s escape went down, according to The Oregonian:

He [Noorah] received permission from his release supervisor, Deputy Kari Kolberg, to study at the community college’s Southeast 82nd Avenue campus on Saturday, June 10.

That afternoon, according to investigators, a GMC Yukon XL arrived outside Noorah’s home on Southeast Yamhill Street and picked him up.

GPS data from Noorah’s monitor bracelet shows he traveled east along Southeast Division Street until the SUV arrived at Portland Sand & Gravel on 106th Avenue, prosecutors said.

This past July, more than 13 months after Noorah first disappeared, the Saudi government contacted Homeland Security, the Marshals Service said. It informed the agency that he arrived back in the kingdom on June 17, 2017. That leaves seven days after Noorah cut off his monitor to the date of his return to his country that remain unaccounted for, Wahlstrom said. The Saudi government hasn’t answered U.S. questions about how Noorah made it back to the kingdom or provided additional details about him.

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Federal investigators at this time believe the Saudis issued Noorah a new passport, probably under a different name, to make the long journey home, according to the marshals. He would not have been able to clear customs or cross international borders without one, Wahlstrom said.

Based on their unsuccessful canvass of airports and commercial flights, federal law enforcement officials also believe Noorah most likely traveled on a private carrier, which have less rigorous oversight, according to Wahlstrom.

On June 13th 2017, just three days after The Oregonian has now confirmed Noorah was whisked back home on a private plane, Multnomah County District Attorney Shawn Overstreet downplayed the Saudi government’s ties to the case. Overstreet told BikePortland that the Saudi government wouldn’t help such a low-level character like Noorah. “They wouldn’t do that for this guy,” he said. Overstreet went so far as to say that if Noorah did return he’d get a very cold reception from his native country — and that he might even face jail time.

Of course back then the U.S. and Saudi Arabia were not involved in a major diplomatic row over the gruesome killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In response to Smart’s death, the City of Portland updated the crossing at Hawthorne and 43rd with a concrete median and a striped crosswalk.

UPDATE 12/28/18: As reported by The Oregonian, US Senator Ron Wyden is demanding a response from the Trump Administration:

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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33 Comments
  • Avatar
    Mike Quigley December 27, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Slick. Uncanny. The Saudis sure do know how to play the U.S. of A. Especially after totally getting away with a direct attack on America’s homeland. Shows the power of oil.

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      meh December 31, 2018 at 8:12 am

      And who exactly gave this guy bail? Big flight risk and never should have gotten bail.

      And who was supposed to be monitoring his ankle bracelet? More diligence needed, again a very obvious flight risk.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

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    Middle of the Road Guy December 27, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    Is anybody really surprised?

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    Bikeninja December 27, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    When we sold our souls in the Faustian Bargain called Happy Motoring we climbed in to bed with the house of Saud. We ,and the world, will reap the consequences of this devils bargain until we wean ourselves off the extravagant habit of riding across the tattered surface of the earth in living rooms on wheels powered by the last drops of ancient sunlight stored up in the crust of our planet for the last 500 million years.Unfortunetly it is almost always the innocent who pay the price for us getting our “oil fix” any way we can. From Fallon to innocent Yemeni kids blown up in their school bus the wrong people always pay the ultimate price for our addiction. To paraphrase the Eagles, “ We satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds in the name of destiny and in the name of oil.”

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    Chris I December 28, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Many of us predicted this outcome in the earlier article’s comment section, and were called all sorts of horrible names for doing so.

    I think we have sufficient precedent now to set bail for all Saudi nationals at such a high level, that even their government can’t bail them out. All should be considered an extreme flight risk.

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      B. Carfree December 28, 2018 at 5:24 pm

      As I understand it, bail is set or denied based on the flight risk of the accused. There is ample evidence that all Saudi nationals WILL flee, thus bail should be denied going forward because of the extreme flight risk.

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    Tim December 28, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Sounds like Multnomah County District Attorney Shawn Overstreet is way too gullible to be a district attorney. I figured out what the Saudis were up to when he made bail. Time for judges and DA’s that aren’t complete fools.

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      Middle of the Road Guy December 28, 2018 at 3:18 pm

      When I was on the Multnomah Cty Grand Jury a few years ago, Shawn was working several cases. He did not strike me as gullible. I quite liked him, actually.

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      JRB January 2, 2019 at 8:02 am

      District attorney’s don’t set bail, judges do.

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    Matthew in PDX December 28, 2018 at 9:01 am

    In the earlier article, I assumed he couldn’t leave the USA because he wasn’t important, well-connected or rich enough to orchestrate a new passport and a private flight out of the USA. Clearly I was wrong. The Saudi government apparently assisted in this flight from justice.

    I think that what we, as a community, now need to do, is to change the bail laws in Oregon. If a person is charged with a felony, that person only gets bail if they are a US citizen or a citizen of a country that has an extradition treaty with the US.

    If a US citizen commits a serious offense in Saudi Arabia, there is no way they are getting bail or being spirited out of the country (unless they are a US government employee/contractor).

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    OldRider December 28, 2018 at 9:24 am

    EVERYBODY (except the D.A.) could see that he was a flight risk.
    Releasing him borders on incompetence, or complicity.

    >>Multnomah County District Attorney Shawn Overstreet downplayed the Saudi government’s ties to the case. Overstreet told BikePortland that the Saudi government wouldn’t help such a low-level character like Noorah.

    so he arranged the car and plane and replacement passport by himself ?

    >>They wouldn’t do that for this guy,” he said. Overstreet went so far as to say that if Noorah did return he’d get a very cold reception from his native country

    a cold reception ?? wow, that will teach him.. 🙁

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      Gary B January 2, 2019 at 12:30 pm

      When Overstreet made those comments, he didn’t know there was a passport and a private plane. It appears is hindsight Overstreet’s early assessment was wrong.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

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    jeff December 28, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Slaughtered while crossing the road. He got away. How come District Attorney Shawn Overstreet?

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      Mike Quigley December 28, 2018 at 10:57 am

      Ahem…. Perhaps Overstreet received a little $weetener from the Saudis to…shall we say…look the other way?

      Recommended Thumb up 5

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    Racer X December 28, 2018 at 11:59 am

    For more info on the law of “bail” in Oregon: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/135.265

    Looks like we need to have our legislature tighten up the bail law this session…

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    OldRider December 28, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Mike Quigley
    Ahem…. Perhaps Overstreet received a little $weetener from the Saudis to…shall we say…look the other way?Recommended 2

    is this the guy ?? ==>> https://www.facebook.com/The-Overstreet-Law-Firm-189582807784657/

    if so, he sure went from a 1 man shop to DA quickly.

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      CaptainKarma December 28, 2018 at 12:27 pm

      What a slap in the face of Fallon’s family, and it could have been ANY of our children! Someone seriously needs to resign. A foreign national on “house arrest” after causing the death of an American child is reprehensible (though that word is losing meaning these days).

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    Racer X December 28, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    BACKSTORY:
    https://www.wweek.com/news/courts/2017/06/20/the-saudi-government-posted-an-astronomical-bail-for-an-accused-killer-in-portland-he-fled-anyway-just-as-an-official-predicted/
    Looks like more Oregon laws need to be tightened up even more…all that Judge Albrecht could [likely] do in this manslaughter case was to set a much higher bail, as bail is all but guaranteed [it seems] even in cases such as this where flight risk was near 100% expected [Sheriff and DA were concerned too it seems, per the article above], but how high is too high for Saudi government to pay (10% down) but not too high to be overruled?

    Judge Albrecht ran unopposed in 2018…perhaps another candidate needs to run against her so this issue can be publicly discussed next election cycle. https://ballotpedia.org/Cheryl_A._Albrecht
    If she thought that the Saudi Government would not step in and bail (and assist flight from justice) then she did not bother to deeply research this issue. The SA government’s history of such undermines the intent of bail (even at 10%) as a protection for the community and victim.

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      Matthew in PDX December 28, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      I think that 10% cash downpayment should be allowed where the funds are sourced from a foreign government that can’t be made to pay the balance (the State Department will never allow Oregon to collect the $900,000 that is owed from the Saudi government). I reiterate what I stated above, foreign nationals charged with felonies shouldn’t get bail unless they are citizens of countries with extradition treaties with the US, e.g. most of the EU, Australia, NZ, Canada etc.

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        Matthew in PDX December 28, 2018 at 3:26 pm

        Correction: … should NOT be allowed…

        Recommended Thumb up 5

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          B. Carfree December 28, 2018 at 5:30 pm

          The bail was technically paid by the killer, not the SA government. Sure, it was government funds, but they were routed through the killer’s account so that they could avoid paying the 90%.

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            Matthew in PDX December 31, 2018 at 9:10 am

            True, however, there are instances where the law will look through these legal fictions. For example, if I were in the middle of a divorce and my business partner and I had some kind of nod, nod, wink, wink deal going to make my wealth or income look smaller, a family court would have no hesitation in calling BS. Similarly, when you’re applying for a home loan from a bank, you have to provide evidence of where your downpayment funds come from, or you’re not getting the loan.

            So, if an accused comes up with $100,000 in cash the court should ask where s/he got the $100,000 and if the accused can’t come up with a reasonable explanation, or the explanation is that a foreign government, directly or indirectly, provided the funds, the full amount of the bail ($1,000,000) should be required, or the bail funds refused. The court should not be laundering money for mobsters either.

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            Mike R December 31, 2018 at 1:02 pm

            Here is what stinks about that: When I purchased a house I had to account for any strange deposits in my bank account for the last several months (I don’t remember exactly how long). Which means, if my parents gave me some money for Christmas or a birthday, I had to give the bank a lengthy explanation about where the money came from and assure them this wasn’t an off-the-books loan. I’m sure this, like much of the unnecessary paperwork in my life, has something to do with the Patriot Act.

            However, apparently when you post a massive bail you couldn’t possibly afford yourself you don’t have to provide any documentation of where the money came from.

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    OldRider December 28, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Judge Albrecht ran unopposed in 2018…perhaps another candidate needs to run against her so this issue can be publicly discussed next election cycle.

    I went to see if she was someone that I knew … hit her page and then thought, oh crap … I accidentally clicked on Choe’s link. 🙁

    https://www.mbabar.org/Resources/CherylAlbrecht.html

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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    bikeninja December 28, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    This must have been a one time aberration. I mean, just as an example, the ruler of Saudi Arabia ordered a U.S. journalist to be brutally killed and dismembered within a Saudi Embassy. the U.S. government would certainly not stand for that right? I mean, we don’t want oil that bad do we?

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    Middle of the Road Guy December 28, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    Everyone blaming everyone else except Noorah. He is the individual that chose to run.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

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    B. Carfree December 28, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    The crown prince of Saudi Arabia just happens to be heavily invested in Uber. It’s estimated that he will score $12 billion in profit when Uber goes public in 2019.

    There’s a bunch of reasons to boycott Uber other than what was done to the journalist by MbS’ henchmen and his government’s policy of helping its criminal citizens flee from justice, but it seems like reasonable people disagree on many of those. However, this is a simple matter of right and wrong and whether or not it is acceptable to spend money in ways that enrich evil actors.

    Unfortunately, Uber is now heavily into bikeshare. They make the bikes used by Biketown and they outright own the bikeshare system down in Eugene. That sure spoils the fun, at least for me.

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      Mike Quigley December 29, 2018 at 8:02 am

      Also, in Eugene you see Saudi UofO students driving expensive cars with strange license plates. They’re not diplomatic plates, but something else. Most likely to alert police to lay off.

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    was carless December 31, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Noorah had been violation-free for the many months he was on release as the case moved toward trial in June 2017, Overstreet said. And that is why the sheriff’s deputy granted him permission to study outside of his home two weeks before the trial. He was supposed to be monitored 24 hours a day, but the supervisor was apparently out of town and didn’t get the alert until the next day, Overstreet said.

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    Pete January 2, 2019 at 6:30 pm

    So, now that he’s back in Saudi Arabia, can Fallon’s family now pursue this as a ‘Qisas’ crime (eye for an eye) under Sharia law?

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    Mike Sanders January 3, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    The fact that the Saudis could spirit him out of the US prompts me to wonder: Was he more than just a student? Was he a Saudi agent (and perhaps an important one)? It sounds like something right out of James Bond, but the possibilities cannot be ignored. Was he using his status as a student as a cover for something else? Was he here to interfere with something or someone who worried the Saudi’s? We might never know…but one has to wonder.

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    JRB January 4, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    While I share the outrage over the flight of Noorah, this outlier of a case should not be used as justification for making the bail system harsher than it already is. The bail system already inordinately punishes poor people who are often incarcerated for months and sometimes years without ever being convicted of a crime simply because they cannot afford bail.

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