Earlier this week, a Facebook page called "Dearborn Underground" posted a video criticizing Dearborn City Council President and judge candidate Susan Dabaja for her involvement in a 10-year-old federal criminal case.
A blog that goes by the same name — Dearborn Underground — has previously attacked many Arab American activists, including the publisher of this newspaper.
Dabaja struck back, labeling the attack as "rumors." Specifically, she denied the claims, calling them "false and malicious." She further noted that her two opponents in the race, Abbie Bazzi and Gene Hunt, did not condemn it, along with her.
The brief details of the federal indictment are as follows: In April 2004, federal prosecutors filed an indictment accusing 19 defendants of engaging in a racketeering scheme to illegally sell contraband cigarettes. The principal defendant was Imad Hammoud and one of the other named defendants was Majid Hammoud, Dabaja's husband.
Majid Hammoud, who was named in numerous allegations in the lengthy indictment, was alleged to have participated in and profited from the criminal enterprise.
In one allegation of the indictment, a property that had been ill-gained from the criminal enterprise was discussed: "On or about May 4, 2001, Majid Hammoud and Susan A. Hammoud quit claimed lot 1981 of Dearborn Manor subdivision to Fadi Haydous for $67,000."
Susan A. Hammoud is, in fact, Susan Dabaja. She reverted to using her maiden name for professional and political purposes after the indictment.
To be clear, Dabaja was not named as a defendant in the indictment. She was, however, alleged to have participated in the sale of the above property. Dabaja was only named (as "Susan A. Hammoud") in that single allegation.
In December 2008, after a lengthy legal process and many filings, Majid Hammoud pled guilty to a RICO offense (conspiracy to participate in a criminal enterprise). He admitted to participating in and profiting from a scheme to sell out-of-state cigarettes in order to avoid Michigan's high cigarette taxes, including selling contraband cigarettes at his own store and collecting cash gained from the illegal operation.
In March 2009, Hammoud was sentenced to 12 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution.
The video broadcast by Dearborn Underground was shoddily done and quite sensational. The accusation that Dabaja was part of a criminal enterprise may have been exaggerated, but not completely without merit.
The facts as outlined above are verifiably true and their disclosure was quite predictable. A seasoned politician would surely know that such an episode may eventually come up in the course of a campaign, especially a judicial one, where we expect the candidates to demonstrate ethics, transparency and accountability. After all, we are electing these people to judge others before the law.
We would have hoped that Dabaja had addressed these facts head-on. Instead, she responded with a Facebook post labeling the video as a lie. Further, throughout her post, she invoked her children and how they are being affected by this episode. She said she was standing up for "Dearborn values."
It is true that Dabaja was never indicted or convicted in this case. It is also true that she should not be held responsible for her husband's crimes.
But as a judicial candidate, instead of flatly denying this substantiated episode as "false rumor", we would hope to hear her opinion on the substance of this issue. Playing the victim and hiding behind children won't make the real issues disappear.