Seattle survivors call verdict a Chanukah miracle

Naveed Haq’s shooting spree in the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle offices was a nightmare for those trapped in the building. More than three years later, the survivors of the attack are hailing his conviction as a “Chanukah miracle.”

“This guilty verdict will provide some closure for many in the Seattle Jewish community,” said Richard Fruchter, president and CEO of the federation. “However, even with this strong message that violence and hate crimes will not be tolerated, we are painfully aware that we cannot bring back Pam, nor erase all the scars and lifelong challenges to be faced by the survivors.”

Naveed Haq, who shot six women at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in July 2006, enters the courtroom Dec. 15 to hear the verdict in the second trial against him. photo/joel magalnick/jta

Fruchter was referring to the only fatality in the July 28, 2006 attack, 58-year-old federation employee Pam Waechter.

On Dec. 15, a jury found Haq guilty of first-degree murder for killing Waechter. It was the second trial for Haq, 34, who had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The first trial, in spring 2008, ended in a mistrial after two weeks of deliberation. This time the jury was able to reach a verdict after just 2 1/2 days of deliberation, bringing the nearly nine-week trial to a close.

Haq will receive an automatic life term in prison. The state decided early on not to seek the death penalty.

As King County Superior Court Judge Paris Kallas read the jury’s decision to a packed courtroom, the surviving victims of the shooting and their friends, family and co-workers reacted with hugs and tears.

Haq’s demeanor did not change throughout the reading of the verdict.

Senior deputy prosecutor Don Raz said he believes the key to the guilty verdict in the second trial was largely due to the admission of new evidence: tapes from a series of phone conversations Haq had from jail with his mother and other family members shortly after his arrest.

In the recordings, Haq’s mother is heard telling her son that he is sick, and it is because of his illness that he committed the attack. Haq repeatedly denies the assertion, saying he feels fine and that he is proud of what he did.

“I think the difference this time was certainly having the jailhouse conversations [included],” Raz said. “Jurors indicated they were very significant” in helping them reach a decision.

Carol Goldman, a survivor of the attack who attended much of the trial, concurred.

“The tapes really did represent the calm, deliberating actions” Haq had shown throughout the duration of the shooting, Goldman said. “He was so calm and he sounded so confident in himself.”

Prosecutors did not introduce the recordings at Haq’s first trial because they didn’t think the tapes would have any relevance, Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, told the Seattle Times.

In addition to the charge of first-degree murder for the killing of Waechter, the jury also found Haq guilty of the seven other charges brought against him, including five counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count each of unlawful imprisonment and malicious harassment.

The prosecution had simplified the case against Haq from 15 counts in his initial trial.

At a news conference following the verdict, Satterberg said Haq’s conviction brought a legal resolution to “our state’s worst hate crime.”

The victims, he said, were “selected mainly because of what they represented: the State of Israel and people of the Jewish faith everywhere.”

“The jury spoke loudly today and for all of us,” Satterberg told reporters. “Hate crimes have no place here. Holding extremist views does not make you insane, but it does make you dangerous.”

Since the attack, a victim’s fund has been set up at the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, Seattle Victims Assistance Fund, 121 Steuart St., San Francisco, CA 94105.