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Judge Rejects Guilty Plea in Moussaoui Case

BY Admin  July 18, 2002 at 4:30 PM EDT

During the arraignment, Moussaoui argued repeatedly with U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema, insisting that he be allowed to plead guilty.

“Moussaoui Zacarias has entered formally a guilty plea fully and completely and he want to have trial as soon as possible,” Reuters quotes Moussaoui as saying.

But reporters say Moussaoui told the court he wanted to fight the government’s attempts to execute him — a task usually undertaken during a trial and not the sentencing phase that comes afterward. If Moussaoui were allowed to plead guilty, there would be no need for a trial.

Brinkema said she would enter a plea of not guilty instead — and when Moussaoui continued to insist on a guilty plea, Brinkema halted the hearing and told Moussaoui to take a week to consider his options.

“I don’t need,” he said in response. “I’ve been thinking about it for months.”

Brinkema ordered Moussaoui to stop talking after he said: “I am a member of al-Qaida, and I pledge bayat [allegiance] to Osama bin Laden.”

“When you speak,” Brinkema warned Moussaoui, “the words can be used against you.”

At Moussaoui’s first arraignment in December, his lawyers entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. At the second, Brinkema entered a not guilty plea for Moussaoui, who by then had fired his legal team after he was declared mentally fit to represent himself.

But a recent rash of motions filed by Moussaoui has led Brinkema to order mental health experts to re-examine him. Among his recent motions is a call for Brinkema to end “her smearing campaign” against him and a demand for the U.S. to produce an allegedly bugged electric fan that had been left on his car.

“He has one foot in the real world and one foot in the delusional world,” Dr. Xavier Amador, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University Medical School and an adviser to Moussaoui’s court-appointed defense team, told reporters. “As a result, we see instances where he’s clearly connected to reality alongside instances of psychotic delusion.”

Brinkema convened Thursday’s hearings to arraign Moussaoui on a new set of government charges that would allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty against him. A federal grand jury approved the indictment Tuesday.

The move came after a Supreme Court ruling last month said only juries — not judges — can order the death penalty, meaning the “aggravating circumstances” that argue in favor of the death penalty must now be explained in the indictment and reviewed by a jury.

The new allegations state Moussaoui assisted in the planning of the Sept. 11 attacks with the knowledge they would result in the death of one or more people. The indictment also alleges Moussaoui committed offenses “in an especially heinous, cruel, and depraved manner” after “substantial planning and premeditation.”

This is the second revision of the allegations against Moussaoui since they were filed in December. In June, prosecutors deleted a reference to Moussaoui’s alleged interest in crop-dusting aircraft.

Moussaoui is the only person charged in connection with the attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania that killed more than 3,000 people.