Moussaoui making use of court-appointed defense lawyers he despises

Thursday, August 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) _ Zacarias Moussaoui, who has derided his court-appointed lawyers as ``bloodsuckers,'' is working through an intermediary to get legal help from the attorneys he despises as he prepares for his Jan. 6 trial as an accused Sept. 11 conspirator.

Moussaoui, representing himself, changed his tactics _ but not his rhetoric _ on July 25, after a judge refused to accept a guilty plea on his terms and made a trial likely.

After withdrawing the guilty plea, Moussaoui was faced with the realization that he had to prepare a defense for a case that could end with his execution. Moussaoui said in court July 25 he would begin indirect contact with the lawyers but added: ``It is most disgusting.''

Since that day, motions by Moussaoui and the court-appointed team indicate the defendant has been communicating with the lawyers through a Muslim professor, Sadiq Reza of New York Law School in Manhattan. Reza declined to comment on his role in the case.

``It appears that Mr. Moussaoui, without changing his view that we are adverse to him, will be seeking assistance from Professor Reza, who has indicated he will need assistance from us precisely in the areas related to our discovery (evidence) review,'' the court-appointed team said in an Aug. 16 motion.

A defense team motion a week earlier said Moussaoui ``recently re-engaged communication'' with the lawyers but did not want them initiating motions on his behalf.

Before the July 25 hearing ended, Moussaoui told the defense team headed by federal public defender Frank Dunham Jr. that he was giving the lawyers their first assignment: find a man described by Moussaoui as a British agent and a conspirator in the Sept. 11 attacks.

``We're pleased to help him in any way we can and we will be out there looking for the witness as soon as he sends us the particulars,'' Dunham said after the hearing.

Dunham wouldn't comment on other ways the team is working with Moussaoui. However, several court motions and orders by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema revealed some areas of legal help.

The lawyers and Moussaoui sought to preserve testimony of a witness who faces deportation from the United States. The lawyers sought a videotaped deposition but the judge went further, granting Moussaoui's own motion to postpone the deportation so the witness could appear in person.

The lawyers submitted legal arguments in support of Moussaoui's own motion to postpone the trial, so the defendant could review thousands of computer files and other evidence provided by the government.

Again, Brinkema went further than the lawyers, who asked that jury selection scheduled for Sept. 30 be postponed for two months. She established a timetable for questioning jurors that would culminate in a final selection Jan. 6, followed by opening statements and trial testimony. Moussaoui had not specified a new trial date.

The lawyers also submitted a pleading that backed Moussaoui's request for access to their secure Web site, arguing he had a right to see the lawyers' work product. Under their proposal, Moussaoui would not have access to any other Web site.

None of this help has persuaded Moussaoui to let the lawyers contact him directly in the Alexandria Detention Center.

``As a protection against any pig disease there will be no more unsanitize contact with the affected horde of standby lawyers,'' he wrote in an Aug. 8 motion. He still calls the team ``bloodsuckers'' in his motions.

Moussaoui is the only person charged as a conspirator with the 19 Sept. 11 suicide bombers. He was arrested a month before the attacks when employees of a Minnesota flight school became suspicious of his conduct.

At a hearing last April, Moussaoui said he wanted to represent himself and stopped all direct contact with the defense team. His wish was granted in June, although Brinkema has asked the appointed team to remain in the case _ at taxpayers' expense _ because she may still revoke Moussaoui's authority to represent himself.

Moussaoui's attempted guilty plea was designed to move the case to the penalty phase, where he said he could prove he was not involved in the Sept. 11 plot. Those plans went awry when the judge refused to accept a plea to a terrorism conspiracy unless Moussaoui would admit to conspiring with the hijackers to kill and maim Americans.

Refusing to admit a role in the attacks, Moussaoui withdrew his guilty plea. The innocent plea previously entered by the judge remains in force.