By ERIC LICHTBLAU
Published: April 21, 2005
The New York Times
WASHINGTON, April 20 - A federal judge on Wednesday declared Zacarias Moussaoui mentally competent to plead guilty to terrorism charges and scheduled a hearing for Friday to allow him to admit his role in the Sept. 11 attacks.
A defense lawyer, meanwhile, disclosed that Mr. Moussaoui not only had told the authorities that he wanted to plead guilty, but had also asked to be put to death.
Mr. Moussaoui's defense lawyers are opposed to the highly unusual decision and plan to file a motion on Thursday challenging his mental fitness and his ability to understand the charges, as events in the once-stalled prosecution now appear to be speeding quickly toward a resolution.
Frank W. Dunham Jr., a defense lawyer, said, "Our view of his competence is that he's not competent." Mr. Dunham declined to explain that conclusion, saying the reasons would be spelled out in the motion.
In a letter that Mr. Moussaoui sent to the judge and prosecutors, "he asked to be sentenced to death" for his role in the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Dunham said.
One question likely to be raised by defense lawyers is whether Mr. Moussaoui's desire to be executed is, by itself, evidence that he may be mentally unfit.
But the judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, of Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., met with Mr. Moussaoui on Wednesday, officials said, and later she issued an order saying she found him "fully competent to plead guilty to the indictment." She did not explain the decision, saying it was part of a sealed hearing.
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who has studied terrorism prosecutions, said "this is a very unusual case in the sense that the client seems very much adverse to the advice of his own lawyer, and that presents all sorts of difficult ethical issues about his legal representation."
Mr. Moussaoui's mental competence has come into question numerous times, and after he sent angry, invective-filled letters to court officials, Judge Brinkema in 2003 revoked his right to represent himself in court. In handwritten filings, Mr. Moussaoui said he wanted "anthrax for Jew sympathisers only," referred to Judge Brinkema as "Leonie you Despotically Judge" and called himself a "suicide pilot ready for action." In another filing, he said that John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, "must be sent to Alexandria jail so I can torture him."
In July 2002, Mr. Moussaoui also sought to plead guilty to the terrorism charges, telling a stunned courtroom that he was a member of Al Qaeda and a loyal follower of Osama bin Laden. He withdrew the plea, saying that to plead guilty would amount to suicide in violation of Islamic law. It is unclear what prompted him to change his mind now, officials said.
Mr. Moussaoui, 36, attended flight training school in Oklahoma and Minnesota in 2001 and received at least $14,000 in wire transfers from a Qaeda operative who helped finance the Sept. 11 attacks, but he is not known to have had direct involvement with the hijackers. Weeks before the 2001 attacks, he was jailed in Minneapolis on immigration charges after a flight trainer noticed that he was acting suspiciously. His intended role with Al Qaeda has never been clearly established.
Some law enforcement officials say they believe he was supposed to take part in the Sept. 11 plot as the "20th hijacker," while others say they suspect he was supposed to be part of a "second wave" of attacks that never materialized.
Mr. Moussaoui's plea, if it becomes final, might answer some of those questions. He is expected to sign a statement of facts laying out his activities on behalf of Al Qaeda.
"We expect the statement of facts to be an acknowledgment that he was involved in the 9/11 attacks," said a government official who asked not to be identified because of a court order imposing silence in the case.
While government officials held out the possibility that Mr. Moussaoui could change his mind again before Friday, they said that at this point they expected him to plead guilty to all six charges, including conspiracy to commit terrorism and aircraft piracy. He is the only person charged in an American court in connection with the attacks.
Four of the charges carry the possibility of a death penalty, and officials said the Justice Department had made no concessions or promises of leniency in securing a plea. "The death penalty is still on the table," the government official said.
If Mr. Moussaoui pleads guilty to capital charges, the sentencing phase and the decision whether to execute him would typically be left to a jury, unless defense and prosecution agreed to allow the judge to decide.
Right...he's "mentally unfit" because he wants the death penalty...okay... A terrorist wants the death penalty and an AMERICAN defense attorney wants to argue with him about it?!?!Mr. Moussaoui's defense lawyers are opposed to the highly unusual decision and plan to file a motion on Thursday challenging his mental fitness and his ability to understand the charges, as events in the once-stalled prosecution now appear to be speeding quickly toward a resolution.
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04-21-2005, 12:26 PM #1
Judge Rules 9/11 Defendant Is Competent to Plead GuiltyIACOJ
"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap it if we do not lose heart."
04-21-2005, 01:26 PM #2A terrorist wants the death penalty and an AMERICAN defense attorney wants to argue with him about it?!?!I dont suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it.
04-21-2005, 05:12 PM #3
- Join Date
- May 2004
I they dont execute this guy he will not survive for long when he goes to prison. infact if the other prisoners kill him it will save the tax payer thousands.
04-21-2005, 05:17 PM #4
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