A federal judge declared a mistrial Monday in the case of a former Andrews Air Force Base security guard accused of failing to include his Muslim name on a background check to hide his ties to an outspoken Washington imam and mosque.
U.S. District Judge Deborah Chasanow made the ruling after jurors failed to reach a verdict for Darrick Michael Jackson, who did not put on a defense, after two days of deliberations. Jurors sent a note to the judge Monday afternoon, saying they could "see no light at the end of the tunnel."
Jackson, 37, of Washington, was charged with making a false statement for not listing "Abdul-Jalil Mohammed" as an alias on the federal form he was required to fill out in 2005. He could have been sentenced to five years in prison if convicted.
Jackson's defense was that he did not know he had to include his religious name for the background check he needed to work at the suburban Washington base, which is home to Air Force One. His attorney accused the government of going after the security guard for religious and political reasons.
Prosecutors have argued that Jackson left off the Mohammed name because he feared it would arouse suspicion and scuttle his chances of keeping his job at the base. They highlighted his ties to the Masjid Al-Islam mosque in southeast Washington, as well as some of the inflammatory statements made by Imam Abdul Alim Musa, including Musa's praise for suicide bombers.
Jackson reacted to the judge's decision by thanking God. "I didn't do anything on purpose," he said. "I don't think I should be here."
Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, said a decision would be made later on whether to retry Jackson.
Juror Eric Smith, 37, said prosecutors failed to prove that Jackson's omission was willful. A majority of jurors wanted to find him not guilty, he said. And despite government claims that religion was not a part of the case, Smith said he wasn't convinced.
"They wanted not to make it about religion, but they ended up making it about religion," he said.