Federal Judge Rejects Acquittal Motions In Terror Support Trial Of Jose Padilla
Tuesday, July 17th 2007, 5:52 pm
News On 6
MIAMI (AP) _ A federal judge refused Tuesday to acquit Jose Padilla and two co-defendants on terrorism support charges, clearing the way for defense lawyers to begin presenting their case this week.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke, ruling after a daylong hearing, said the evidence and testimony offered by the prosecuton over the past nine weeks was enough proof to let a jury decide the men's guilt or innocence.
``That is something the jurors will have to find,'' Cooke said. The trial is expected to last well into August.
Padilla, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi face possible life in prison if convicted of being part of a support cell that provided recruits, money and supplies to Islamic extremist groups around the world, including al-Qaida. Padilla, a U.S. citizen also held for 3 1/2 years without charge as an enemy combatant, is accused in the Miami case of completing a form to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.
Padilla was originally suspected of plotting to detonate a radioactive ``dirty bomb'' in the U.S. after his May 2002 arrest, but those allegations are not part of the Miami trial.
The hearing Tuesday was on defense acquittal motions brought under rules that allow a judge to issue a verdict before jurors get the case if prosecution evidence is insufficient. That evidence, however, must be examined in the light most favorable to prosecutors.
The most serious charge in a three-count indictment accuses the defendants of conspiring to murder, maim and kidnap people in foreign countries, which was the main focus of the hearing. The material support charges contain maximum sentences of 15 years each.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Frazier said the evidence, including dozens of FBI wiretap intercepts where code was allegedly used to discuss violence and Islamic jihad, proved there was ``no peaceful explanation'' for what the men did.
``I think it is a very tightly knit conspiracy,'' Frazier said. ``We have more than carried our burden.''
Defense attorneys insisted the government evidence did not prove the existence of such a conspiracy. Padilla attorney Michael Caruso pointed out that Padilla's voice is heard on only a handful of the intercepted phone calls and is never overheard discussing any type of violence.
``There's not an agreement by Mr. Padilla to commit a murder. If there was a plan, he was not a willing participant,'' Caruso said.
Hassoun lawyer Jeanne Baker contended that her client was interested ``with passion'' in assisting Muslims in conflict zones such as Chechnya, Bosnia and Somalia but mainly for humanitarian reasons. She said that Hassoun has no connection to al-Qaida and that FBI intercepts in which he urges others to travel to battle areas did not necessarily mean they had violent intent.
That brought a rejoinder from the judge.
``Well, he wasn't telling people to go there to open lemonade stands,'' Cooke said.
Marshall Dore Louis, one of Jayyousi's lawyers, said the evidence failed to establish that his client _ who published an ``Islam Report'' newsletter that prosecutors say was Islamist propaganda _ sought to join any conspiracy.
``There's no evidence that Dr. Jayyousi ever agreed to do any of these things,'' Louis said.