WARRENSBURG, Mo. (AP) — Ziyad Abid was a Missouri college student aspiring to become a pilot like his father back home in Saudi Arabia when he was accused of paying his roommate to kill a local bar owner. The judge set bond at $2 million, completely out of reach for his family — but not for the Saudi government.
The money came in. Yet two months later, Abid remains jailed because a judge is refusing to let him out. The judge acknowledged he may be violating the Missouri Constitution, which allows suspects to be held without bond only in capital murder cases.
But the judge won’t budge. Or explain why.
Abid’s lawyers, including a former U.S. attorney for Missouri, have asked a state appeals court to release Abid and remove Circuit Judge Michael Wagner from the case, arguing that he’s biased in part by Abid’s nationality. The court has given Wagner until Monday to respond.
Abid was studying aviation at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg when his roommate, Reginald Singletary Jr., was accused of killing popular bar owner Blaine Whitworth in September. Singletary admitted fatally shooting Whitworth in the bar owner’s driveway but claimed Abid paid him to do it, according to court documents.
Prosecutors haven’t disclosed an alleged motive, but defense attorneys said Abid had no personal connection to Whitworth and that Singletary had been fired as the bar’s bouncer.
Diane Whitworth said she’s afraid Abid would ask to be deported if he’s released from jail.
“We understand nothing we can do will bring our son back,” she told the AP. “It isn’t just about one person. It’s about anyone who comes to the U.S. to avail themselves of our educational system and commits a crime. They have the potential luxury of being deported before anything happens.”
An ICE spokesman declined comment. But one of Abid’s attorneys, Pat Peters, insisted the government rarely deports foreigners in such cases.
Peters also said Abid was expelled because he couldn’t attend classes while in jail. But the university’s associate provost, Corey Bowman, said Abid had violated school policies “not directly related” to his arrest. Bowman said he couldn’t release details, citing privacy laws.