An innocent man's life left in ruins
Daily News Exclusive
BY RUSS BUETTNER
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Originally published on March 26, 2006
Adam Blake thinks he was guilty of only one thing:
trying to fly while Muslim.
Blake has lived a legal nightmare in the post-9/11
era. Born and raised in the Bronx, Blake was held
without bail for three months and has been unable to
work for nearly a year because federal officials have
kept his identification. A pretrial report even
alleged he belonged to a terrorist organization, court
Now, as he has spiraled into homelessness, federal
prosecutors have dropped every charge against him.
Blake said investigators told him his troubles began
when the mother of his estranged wife allegedly
reported that he was a terrorist, and because events
in his life fit that profile.
Blake, 36, converted to Islam and adopted a Muslim
name in 1991. He traveled through the Middle East off
and on for a decade, without obvious sources of cash,
before returning to the United States to study
But a closer look offers mundane explanations. His
mother says she paid for his travels. His interest in
aviation dates back to his childhood, when he would
ride subways and buses to airfields and heliports,
including Floyd Bennett Field.
"I really wish I had had the money right out of high
school for him to study to be a pilot," said his
mother, Toni Blake, who now lives in South Carolina.
Blake's experience highlights the line that federal
investigators continue to walk between respecting the
rights of innocent people and risking disaster should
they let a real terrorist remain free.
Arsalan Iftikhar, the national legal director of the
Council on American-Islamic Relations, acknowledged
the difficulty, but added that Blake's experiences
sound like too many other examples of Muslims being
unnecessarily detained since 9/11. "The American
Muslim community feels as though they have been under
siege by an overzealous Justice Department," said
Iftikhar. "Unfortunately, the vast majority of these
cases turn out to be nothing more than minor civil
Wants to help his son
Blake said he abhors terrorism. By the time
prosecutors dropped his case, he was living at the
men's homeless shelter in Manhattan. But he expressed
"I just want to get my identification back and get a
job so I can send money to help my wife raise our
son," he said.
Blake readily admits that his life has lacked focus.
But his interest in aviation was always there.
Patricia Wagner, now the general manager of the E.
34th St. Metroport, said she recalled a young Blake
hanging around when she ran the heliport at E. 60th
St. in the late 1980s. "He just liked being around
aviation, it was one of his passions," Wagner said.
"He was always very personable."
Blake was born with the name Christopher Mussenden and
attended public schools in the Bronx. He said he spent
four years in Seattle, during which he converted to
Islam, changed his name to Idris Jibreel and made a
pilgrimage to Mecca. From 1997 through 2004, Blake
traveled repeatedly through the Middle East and to
Asia, sometimes working in the gem industry, he said.
After 9/11, he returned briefly to New York and
changed his name to Adam Blake, adopting his mother's
maiden name. "I didn't want problems running around
with a name like Jibreel," he said. "And I never liked
the name Christopher."
During a month-long trip to Kuwait in 2004, he met a
Vancouver woman online.
"I told her that I had no money and no prospects,"
Blake said. "She said, 'Come here and let's start a
Three months together didn't go well, though a child
was conceived. In August 2004, Blake got on a bus to
Passport photo problem
Blake said that a border patrol officer told him his
passport photo wasn't right. He went to a Seattle
office the next day and paid for an expedited copy.
After many calls, Blake was told the new passport was
ready. But when he went to pick it up, he was arrested
by federal and local officials on a 1993 warrant
alleging he had used his employer's phone to make
personal calls, said Lawrence Hildes, a Washington
attorney who advised Blake on his passport woes.
"It gives the strong appearance that they were
targeting him because they believed him to be part of
a terrorist organization, which I'm 100% sure he's
not," Hildes said.
Blake said he was held at a county jail for six weeks.
After his release, he enrolled in a correspondence
course in aviation.
In January 2005, he was told again that his passport
was ready. This time he was interrogated by the FBI
for five hours before being sent home, he said.
The following day, Blake was arrested on charges that
in 1995 he had failed to check a box on a passport
application noting that he had previously possessed a
passport, and that on another application in 1996 he
had misstated the date that his most recent passport
had been issued.
Blake's wife, Megan Harrison, told the Daily News she
didn't believe her mother had called authorities - or
that Blake has ever been interested in terrorism.
"It's laughable to anyone who knows him," said
Harrison, who still lives in Vancouver.
Blake was sent back to Manhattan and held without bail
until April, when he was released on a $50,000 bond
signed by his mother. Still lacking his essential
identification papers, prosecutors gave him a letter
saying he had a federal case pending.
Last month, prosecutors offered Blake a deferred
prosecution agreement. It would have erased the case
after a year if he followed the "instructions and
advice" of a pretrial services officer - and waived
his right to sue.
Blake resisted, even as his court-appointed attorneys
and the judge in his case, John Keenan, pressured him
"I told you it was a great deal," Keenan said in
court. "I never met a man in my life until I met you
that wouldn't accept a deferred prosecution
"This, unfortunately, I believe, is the br'er rabbit
defense," added Frederick Cohn, Blake's
court-appointed attorney. "But I don't believe he was
born and bred in the briar patch."
Cohn declined to comment to The News.
But on March 6, prosecutors dropped the charges based
on "a review of the evidence."
Blake has now boarded a bus and moved to his mother's
"It's just terrible what they tried to do to him," she
said. "He's never been in any trouble."
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