Judge calls prosecutors ‘pretentious,' ‘inept' in Al Hardan terror case

HOUSTON – The federal judge presiding over a high-profile Houston terrorism case blasted federal prosecutors calling them “pretentious lawyers” and entering an order on ineptitude in the case of Omar Al Hardan.

Al Hardan is the man prosecutors say wanted to blow up the Galleria and Sharpstown malls before he was arrested last month and charged with terrorism-related charges. Prosecutors said he also aligned himself with ISIS.

U.S. District Court Judge Lynn N. Hughes, known to be stern in court, wrote the order after prosecutors had difficulty obtaining an transcript of a court hearing.

“If the pretentious lawyers from ‘main’ justice knew what they were doing -- or had the humility to ask for help from the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas -- it would not have taken three days, seven telephone calls, three voicemail messages, and one snippy electronic message for them to indirectly as the court for assistance in ordering the transcript,” Hughes wrote in his ineptitude order.

Main Justice is the name given to Justice Department lawyers in Washington, D.C., who often try cases in conjunction with federal prosecutors in various judicial districts around the country.

Texas has four federal judicial districts, with the Southern District of Texas being headquartered in Houston.

“Federal judges chastise the Department of Justice with the frequency of Haley's Comet. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it's a big deal,” Channel 2 Legal Analyst Brian Wice said.

He said the issue should not affect Al Hardan's ability to get a fair trial.

Hughes further wrote, “The Washington lawyers might have looked at the court’s website ...” Hughes then listed a government website containing information for ordering transcripts.”

“There's a reason why the Founding Fathers believed the lifetime tenure they gave to federal judges should mean more than just an impressive office and a good parking spot. They wanted federal judges like Lynn Hughes to be able to send a message to the Department of Justice, who think the initials ‘DOJ’ mean it's immune from being called out,” said Wice.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston would not comment. The Justice Department in Washington, D.C., had no comment.

This is the second issue recently that federal prosecutors have had trying the terrorism case.

Last week, federal prosecutors filed a correction to a federal agent’s testimony after an agent in the case incorrectly said Al Hardan specifically said which malls he wanted to target.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jace Larson that the Al Hardan did not say, from his own mouth, that he wanted to blow up Sharpstown or Galleria Malls, but during the conversation both malls were mentioned and Al Hardan indicated he wanted to target them.

If you have a tip about this story or another story, email investigative reporter Jace Larson at jlarson@kprc.com or text him at 832-493-3951.