June 21, 2002 at 4:32 PM EST - Updated July 1 at 8:35 AM
CANTON, Ohio (AP) - A jury has convicted a man of criminal trespassing for driving past a gateless guard booth at a Timken Co. plant.
Abdiwahab M. Madhobe, 39, of Arlington, Texas, says he inadvertently drove onto the property, then followed a guard's order to leave.
Madhobe, a native of Kenya, who has permanent residency status, said he merely got lost and is innocent. He intends to appeal.
"Let's not candy-coat this. After Sept. 11, we need to be a little more careful," city Prosecutor Frank Forchione said after Thursday's verdict.
The charge is a low-level misdemeanor, city Law Director Joe Martuccio said Friday. It carries a possible 30-day jail sentence and a fine of up to $250. But he said it often results in probation or an order to perform community service.
Madhobe and passenger Faiq A. Farooqi say they were testing cellular telephone signals in the area for phone-maker Ericsson when they drove past the guard booth at the Timken plant at 10:30 p.m. April 8.
Farooqi, 25, an electrical engineer from Richardson, Texas, goes on trial next month. He is a native of Pakistan.
Madhobe's attorneys argued law enforcement officials overreacted and charged the pair because of their Middle Eastern appearances.
Among the items found in the car that night was an Islamic prayer book.
"There's been a series of mistakes made in this case," defense attorney David Bartos said. "He simply got lost. It ends with a bigger mistake."
Municipal Court Judge Richard J. Kubilus will sentence Madhobe on July 23.
"I'm just surprised," Madhobe told The Repository. "I am 100 percent innocent."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)