Archive for Thursday, April 21, 2005

Judge to accept 9-11 suspect’s guilty plea

April 21, 2005


— The only person indicted in the United States in connection with the 9-11 terrorist attacks plans to plead guilty to charges that could bring him the death penalty, two federal officials said Wednesday.

Zacarias Moussaoui, whose strange behavior throughout the drawn-out case raised questions about his mental competence, met Wednesday with U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema. Afterward, Brinkema pronounced the French citizen fit to enter a plea to the six-count indictment and scheduled a hearing Friday in Alexandria, Va.

"The court finds that the defendant is fully competent to plead guilty to the indictment," Brinkema said in a brief order.

The mercurial Moussaoui still could change his mind, which he did once before. But if he follows through, it will mark the latest twist in a convoluted -- and sometimes bizarre -- case during which Moussaoui has fought with and insulted the judge, his own lawyers and prosecutors but also has had some surprising legal victories.

The government has charged Moussaoui with being part of an al-Qaida conspiracy to commit terrorism that included the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed nearly 3,000 people.

The indictment accuses Moussaoui of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, commit aircraft piracy, destroy aircraft, murder government employees and destroy property.

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