Breach of court rules set to spare life of '20th hijacker' Moussaoui

Click to follow
The Independent US

"I do not want to act precipitously, but it is very difficult for this case to go forward," a visibly angry Judge Leonie Brinkema said yesterday as she scheduled a special hearing for today. Some legal experts expect she will terminate the current penalty phase trial, meaning that by default, Moussaoui will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Judge Brinkema told the court in Alexandria, Virginia, that a lawyer for the Transportation Security Administration sent e-mails to seven Federal Aviati on Administration officials due to testify in the case, setting out the prosecution's opening statements and providing commentary on government witnesses from the first day of testimony. The action explicitly breached her pre-trial order barring witnesses from exposure to any opening statements or trial testimony.

Moussaoui, often referred to as the "20th hijacker", was arrested in August 2001, a month before the attacks on New York and Washington. The government is seeking the death penalty on the grounds that if he had fully co-operated with investigators then, the 11 September attacks could have been stopped. He denies specific knowledge of the plans.