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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Anissa Khoder, Hussein Khoder

Aired May 23, 2003 - 20:07   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Tensions can run high when people are told to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior, sometimes ending up with innocent people being victimized. Anissa Khoder says that's exactly what happened to her when she went to traffic court last week and she was branded a terrorist. Marvin Scott of our affiliate WPIX in New York has the story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANISSA KHODER, ASKED WHETHER SHE WAS TERRORIST IN TRAFFIC COURT: Ah, Khoder. I said, yes. He said, are you a terrorist? I said, look at me. I smiled. Look at me, I look like a terrorist?

MARVIN SCOTT, WPIX CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Forty-six-year- old Anissa Khoder, an American citizen for 10 years, said she was mortified to hear (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Justice William Crosbie say such a thing after he noted her Lebanese name. The woman went to court to argue she was ticketed twice in one hour for the same parking violation, said she should pay only one, which drew this response from the judge.

KHODER: You don't want to pay your ticket, but you have money to support terrorists.

SCOTT: Judge Crosbie denies making that remark, but confirms he did ask her if she was a terrorist.

JUDGE WILLIAM CROSBIE, TARRYTOWN, NY JUSTICE: I shouldn't have said it, apparently. But I did. And I don't hedge at it all.

SCOTT: Though he claims he was probably kidding, Anissa Khoder was so upset she started to choke and fainted in the courtroom. The judge wasn't moved.

CROSBIE: She could have received an Academy Award for that one. And then she started to ululate, which is what they do.

SCOTT: The judge speculates the family anger was motivated by his previous sentencing of the woman's stepson to jail on a drug charge. Mrs. Khoder, who had served on juries, declares she is worthy of better treatment.

KHODER: I am an American citizen and proud to be one.

SCOTT: Westchester County Executive Andrew Spanow called the judge's behavior "totally inappropriate, bizarre." ANDREW SPANOW, WESTCHESTER CO. EXECUTIVE: This is a judge in an American court who admits that he said it, and then says it was only a joke, which I think compounds the situation even more. This man should not be on the bench.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Once again, that was Marvin Scott from our affiliate WPIX bringing us that story. Well, our story is not going to end there. We actually have Anissa Khoder, who has filed a complaint against Justice Crosbie with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. She joins us now with her stepson, Hussein Khoder. Hussein has filed the complaint on Anissa's behalf. Khoder family, welcome. Thanks for being with us this evening. Mrs. Khoder, let's start with you and take us back to the situation that brought you in front of the judge in the first place.

A. KHODER: One morning I left my car for my husband to take my son to school. I assumed he took the car. I didn't go check out. Later that day, I mean, maybe hour, I went, I saw two tickets. I don't want to tell the story, you know. I went, I saw two tickets. Well, they said to me, if you pay the same day, you get -- I mean, you pay one. I went to the court. I saw (UNINTELLIGIBLE), she's working there. I said, I got two tickets now. She said, OK, I can't do anything about it, you have to see the judge.

KAGAN: So there you go. You go before the judge. It should just be very simple. You're just trying to get the one ticket excused and you were going to pay the one ticket.

A. KHODER: Sure.

KAGAN: You just don't want to pay two tickets.

A. KHODER: That's it.

KAGAN: And it should have just been a very simple matter until the judge looked down at your name.

A. KHODER: Yes.

KAGAN: I know we just heard in the piece, but you have to tell me again what exactly he said to you because it's just so unbelievable.

A. KHODER: When he called my name, I stood up. Hi, good morning, your honor. I smiled. You know, respect for the judge, for the court. He said, good morning. Was laying like that. I said, OK. He said, Khoder? I said, yes. He said, are you a terrorist? I mean, you feel inside of you -- but I don't want to look behind me, because the court is full of people.

KAGAN: You had to think for a second, I know I didn't hear clearly, there's no way a judge just asked me that.

A. KHODER: Yeah. You know, you've got shock. But you do want to keep it to yourself? You want to come in to pay the ticket. You are not coming to discuss this matter. I mean, I don't want to be defending myself. I know myself.

KAGAN: But according to you, the comments didn't stop there.

A. KHODER: No. Suddenly, he -- I said, can I explain myself? I am coming to explain myself, how I get the ticket. He said, no. He stopped, he said to me, OK, go ahead, smiled, with a smile. I explained my story. Suddenly he said to me, you don't want to pay your ticket. I said, I always pay my tickets. Like that, I always pay my ticket, but because I get two tickets the same hour, this is what the girl told me.

KAGAN: What was he trying to imply you wanted to do with your money instead?

A. KHODER: This is I guess what he has in mind. He said to me right away, this is what I want to -- he said to me, you don't want to pay the ticket, but you have money to support the terrorists. Right away, I felt like the first remark hit me like somebody hit me with a brick. I felt choked. Numb. I fall on his desk, I mean, not -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I fall. I said, not nice. Not nice. I was repeating, not nice, until I fall on the floor. I don't know what -- I was in shock. Until I heard the police over me.

KAGAN: Let's go ahead and bring Hussein in here so we can complete the story.

HUSSEIN KHODER, ANISSA'S STEPSON: It was at that point that she fell on the ground and the police actually took her outside for some fresh air. They wanted to make sure she was not on medication, which she wasn't.

KAGAN: Let me point out just for purposes of the story, the judge says that he said the first comment, not the second comment. There is no court reporter in this type of court situation, so there's not like a transcript we can look at. And yet you hear the story of how your stepmother was treated, this is unacceptable, you would like to see this judge removed from the bench.

H. KHODER: Absolutely. Yes.

KAGAN: What kind of a reaction have you gotten from those efforts?

H. KHODER: I have filed a complaint with the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct. They have accepted the complaint. And they are now meeting to take the necessary actions. In the meantime, Anissa has had a very difficult time going outside of her door, not knowing who was in the courtroom and who wasn't. Going back to the statement that he did not make that second statement? If he only made the first statement, we would not be here today. Because we would have completed, she would have paid her ticket, she would have walked out. It was the second statement that prompted her to actually faint.

KAGAN: Do you think it's going to end up being your word against the judge's?

H. KHODER: No, I think there was too many people in that courtroom. And I think other people have actually come forward with other issues that have happened in that courtroom that they've brought forward already. So it's not just an isolated incident.

KAGAN: It's one thing to get the judge -- try to get the judge taken off the bench. But do you then continue to talk about the story and come on national television like this because you want to make people aware of what kind of prejudice that some people, some families like yours face today?

H. KHODER: Our only objective is to make sure that this never happens to anybody else again. We have not retained an attorney. We are not looking to take this matter any further than where the commission wants to take it. When the commission concludes, we've concluded.

KAGAN: We'll be tracking it. Khoder family, Hussein and Anissa, thank you for joining us.

H. KHODER: Thank you.

KAGAN: Appreciate it. You paid the one ticket, right?

A. KHODER: No, no.

H. KHODER: They dismissed both of them.

KAGAN: They dismissed both of them. Well, there you go. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ticket. OK. Thanks for being with us tonight.

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