FBI Probing Anti-Bush Teddy Bear
Plush toy was delivered to home of Detroit federal judge
JUNE 22--The FBI has subpoenaed records related to the online sales of a teddy bear carrying the message "Bush Kills Arabs Dead," apparently as part of a probe into who delivered one of the plush toys to the Michigan home of a federal magistrate, The Smoking Gun has learned.
But, TSG has discovered, the Detroit U.S. Attorney's grand jury investigation will find that the teddy bear, pictured at right, wasn't some sort of a threat, but rather a gag gift purchased by a friend of Mona Majzoub, the federal magistrate. Last July, a court panel selected Majzoub, a 55-year-old Arab American lawyer from Detroit, to fill an open magistrate's slot.
The teddy tale began in late January, when two Michigan men spotted the stuffed bear for sale in an online store connected to georgewbush.org, a parody site critical of the president and his administration. One of the men, Michael J. Brady, is a 59-year-old lawyer who chairs the Michigan bar's criminal law committee. The other web surfer, George Gish, is a retired court administrator and friend of Majzoub's. In a TSG interview, Brady said that Gish, 64, thought the bear would make a perfect gift for his friend Mazjoub, who Gish wanted to needle for her support of Bush and the Iraq war.
Brady, who ordered the bear and had the item sent to Gish's Southfield home, said he believed his friend "took it to her house and left it on her porch." Brady noted that he did not know whether Gish told Majzoub he was responsible for the gift, adding that his friend believed Majzoub would immediately realize who was responsible for the prank.
That may have been a miscalculation on the part of Gish, pictured left, who could not be reached for comment.
Because on May 24, a federal grand jury subpoena was issued to the California company that maintained the online store offering the 11-inch teddy bear. The subpoena sought a list of customers (and their addresses) who purchased the $15.99 item, known as product #8632701. In a June 7 response sent to FBI agent Angela Ryan, the company, CafePress.com, reported selling only one of the teddy bears during the period specified in the subpoena (October 2003 to February 2004). A CafePress invoice provided to the FBI records the sale of the item to Brady and the delivery of the teddy bear to Gish.
The firm provides print on demand services to thousands of web sites and small companies that want to offer personalized merchandise, but do not want to deal with the hassle of storage and order fulfillment, according to Maneesh Jain, CafePress's co-founder. Jain told TSG that FBI agents did not describe the nature of the bureau probe, just that they were looking into a "teddy bear transaction."
Citing grand jury secrecy rules, prosecutor Sheldon Light, whose name appears on the subpoena and who heads the U.S. attorney's general crimes unit, declined comment on a "pending investigation." Ryan did not return a phone message left at the Detroit FBI office.
While advertised as a "great companion for those cold winter mornings," the "Bush Kills Arabs Dead" teddy bear was delivered to Majzoub at a time when such items--and their pointed messages--could easily be misconstrued by investigators monitoring threats of all kinds.