Although Attorney General Eric Holder has reconsidered his decision to hold the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Manhattan, some continue to voice support for the location, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
In November, Holder announced that KSM, the self-described “mastermind” of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, would be tried in the Southern District of New York. The office is headed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Holder quickly came under fire for the decision and in February decided to move the trial out of SDNY.
One of the locations under consideration from the start was the Eastern District of Virginia, which hosted the spring 2006 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. The Alexandria, Va.,-based district is the only place to date that has held a Sept. 11, 2001-related trial. The LA Times reports that as Justice Department officials, aided by Holder and President Barack Obama, continue to look for a trial location, they remain steadfast that the trial should be conducted where one of the attacks occurred, meaning New York City, Northern Virginia or western Pennsylvania.
However, those outside the DOJ remain divided on where the trial should take place.
Ron Kuby, a New York City criminal defense lawyer who has represented terrorism defendants for three decades said, KSM “has said repeatedly and publicly, ‘I did it. Kill me.’ And the government has said repeatedly and publicly, ‘He did it. We want to kill him.’” He added, “It sounds like a plan. Not a lot can go wrong.”
However, Larry Homenick and Tina Rowe — the two top U.S. marshals who coordinated security in Denver for the 1997 trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh — said the world has dramatically changed in the past decade. When McVeigh was tried, the concern was that anti-government militias might create trouble. Now, the concerns include suicide bombers and airplane attacks, the U.S. marshals told The LA Times.
Both said the trial should not take place in the crowded borough of Manhattan. “That case in New York would be like the McVeigh trial on steroids,” Homenick told The LA Times.
Another concern is that having New York host the trial would make the city a target for another attack. But Bernard V. Kleinman, a lawyer who represented Ramzi Ahmed Yousef in the 1993 World Trade Center attack disagrees. “New York has been a target for years,” he told The LA Times. Kleinman added that KSM and his co-defendants might plead guilty, which would mean short sentencing hearings. He also told The LA Times, ” It’s important they hold the trial right there” because of what happened there.
Defense attorney James J. Brosnahan — who represented John Walker Lindh who was tried in Alexandria, Va., for fighting with the Taliban — told The LA Times neither he nor his client felt they were in any danger. “Courts today are built to deal with all kinds of problems.”
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Two men who worked for the private security firm formerly known as Blackwater have been charged in the May 2009 shooting deaths of two Afghan men at the scene of a traffic accident, the Justice Department said.
In an indictment unsealed Thursday, Justin Cannon, 27, of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Christopher Drotleff, 29, of Virginia Beach, Va., were charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, six counts of using and discharging a firearm during a violent crime and four counts of murder resulting from the use of a firearm during a violent crime.
The men, who were providing the Afghan army and government with weapons training, were working for Paravant LLC, a subsidiary of Blackwater Worldwide, which changed its names to Xe last year. Paravant, in turn, had been subcontracted by a subsidiary of Raytheon Co., Raytheon Technical Services Company LLC.
The shootings occured at an intersection in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The victims were identified as Romal Mohammad Naiem and Rahib Mirza Mohammad. A third man, Fareed Haji Ahmad, was wounded.
Cannon and Drotleff, both military veterans, said in recent interviews with The Associated Press that they opened fire on a car that wrecked in front of their vehicle, then turned and sped toward them after they got out to help. Both men were fired after the shootings.
“My conscience is clear about it, but that doesn’t really matter,” Cannon told The AP. ”If someone’s got an agenda, then there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Cannon and Drotleff were arrested Thursday and remain in custody. If convicted, the men could face the death penalty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randy Stoker and Alan Salsbury from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, as well as Trial Attorney Robert McGovern of the Criminal Division’s Domestic Security Section.
The arrests came on the same day Xe announced a settlement in seven federal lawsuits brought by Iraqis who accused the company of encouraging a culture of recklessness that led to the deaths of several Iraqi civilians. In a highly-publicized case, the company was sued for its role in the 2007 shootings in Nasoor Square in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead.
Five former guards were charged in the shootings, but a federal judge dismissed the indictment last week, saying federal prosecutors used off-limits State Department interviews to build their case. The Justice Department has not said whether it will appeal the ruling.
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If you’re wondering what went into Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to prosecute Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his alleged confederates in federal court, and why he settled on the Southern District of New York, The Washington Post’s Carrie Johnson has some answers.
Top prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., and Manhattan twice made their pitch to Holder in the command center in department headquarters. Holder favored New York for security reasons. According to Johnson:
In the end, the biggest factor that influenced Holder’s decision-making, according to senior Justice Department officials, turned out to be a confidential security study prepared by the U.S. Marshals Service. That agency operates behind the scenes to protect courthouses, judges and witnesses in scores of facilities across the country. The marshals concluded that the Southern District of New York — with its hardened courthouse, secure Metropolitan Correctional Center and underground transportation tunnels through which to bring defendants to and from court each day — was, hands down, the safest option.
The politics were easier, too. In New York, Holder enjoyed the support of New York Gov. David A. Paterson (D), New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, as well as Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). But in Virginia, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R) and Sen. James Webb (D) have opposed bringing detainees to U.S. soil.
When the decision was made, Holder called Neil MacBride, the U.S. Attorney in Alexandria, and Preet Bharara, the top prosecutor in the Southern District. MacBride pledged his support without complaint, Johnson reported.
Prosecutors from EDVA will head to New York to present evidence to a grand jury and help try the case. Holder’s national security adviser, Amy Jeffress, will decide the final composition of the trial team.
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Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday announced nine appointees to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys.
In August, Holder tapped Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones to chair the committee, an influential policy-making and advisory body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys at Main Justice.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, of Illinois’ Northern District, served as interim chairman before Jones was confirmed. Chicago’s top prosecutor, a Republican appointee who has been recommended for a second tour of duty, will remain on the committee.
The nine new members are listed below. Click on their names for a summary of their Senate questionnaires.
- Preet Bharara, of the Southern District of New York
- Dennis Burke, of Arizona
- Jenny Durkan, of the Western District of Washington
- Paul Fishman, of New Jersey
- Neil MacBride, of the Eastern District of Virginia
- Peter Neronha, of Rhode Island
- Joyce Vance, of the Northern District of Alabama
- Channing Phillips, acting U.S attorney in the District of Columbia
- John Davis, chief of the criminal division of the federal prosecutors’ office in Alexandria, will represent the views of Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
They will each serve two-year terms.
The Senate so far has confirmed 18 of 93 U.S. Attorneys. One nominee is waiting for approval by the full Senate, and 11 more await a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Holder, in a statement, said he would rely heavily on the the AGAC as the department works to curb violent crime and gang violence, promote civil rights, police the marketplace and protect national security.
The AGAC’s other members, who were appointed during the Bush administration, include U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, of Middle District of Alabama; Rod Rosenstein, of Maryland; Brett Tolman, of Utah; and Gretchen Witt, the civil chief in the District of New Hampshire.
Regulations require only that the committee have an “appropriate” number of members.
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