Corporate Influence on Moussaoui Trial Screw-Up?

As many of you know, the US Federal governement is trying Zacarias Moussaoui as an alleged co-conspirator in the 9/11 attacks. He’s already pled guilty to being an Al Qaeda member and to participating in terrorist conspiracy, but the government has conceded that there is no direct evidence that he killed anyone or was directly involved in the 9/11 attacks or in any murders. One reason for this is that Moussaoui was arrested before 9/11 and was in jail when the attacks happened. The current trial is a penalty trial only. The government is pressing for the death penalty on the theory that if Moussaoui had told the feds about 9/11 before it happened then it could have been stopped. The Moussaoui defense is pressing for the alternative: life in prison without parole for conspiracy but no actual murder.

A key part of the Fed case is the testimony of aviation witnesses. The Feds charge that 9/11 could have been prevented, with warning, and that the aviation witnesses will testify to that. As a standard matter of law, coaching the testimony of the witnesses is prohibited and is a serious matter: an attorney who coaches a witness to change testimony can face serious discipline. On top of that, the Judge in this trial issued an order last month barring any coaching and also “sequestering” the witnesses: they are not allowed to watch the trial or hear the testimony of any other witnesses, and they are not allowed to read the transcript of other witnesses. So far, thats all fairly standard rulings.

Here’s where things get weird. Government attorney Carla Martin who works for the Transportation Safety Agency has been the liason between the prosecutors and the aviation witnesses. She recently violated the Judge’s order by sending multiple emails to the witnesses, with transcipts of other testimony and opening statements and with her advice on how to testify. At certain points she specifically tells the witnesses what to say. Here’s an example: “There is no way anyone could say that the (airline) carriers could have prevented all short-bladed knives from going through, Dave MUST elicit that from you and the airline witnesses on direct,” In other words she coached the witnesses blatantly and is in VERY serious violation of the Judges order. She is likely also in serious violation of her state Bar ethics guidelines.

For reference, here are the actual emails .

This is pretty surprising to me as an attorney b/c its obviously way over the line and any rookie lawyer should know better. Ms Martin has 12 years experience and was supposedly a reasonably high ranking lawyer with the TSA. So why would she make herself look so freaking stupid (and risk her Bar license and her career)?

My first thought was that she was just doing CYA for the TSA and trying to avoid making the TSA and the airline industry look bad. But now there’s a new wrinkle: There’s another lawsuit involving 9/11 and also involving some of these same aviation witnesses. The 9/11 victims are suing many of the airlines alleging that 9/11 could have been stopped with security measures (like screening out short knives etc) and the Airlines are defending saying 9/11 was not preventable and not forseeable.

Well now the plaintiff attorneys for the 9/11 victims are alleging that Martin coached the witnesses as a result of corporate influence .

They are saying that the prosecution arguments against Mousaoui undercut the airline defense arguements in the civil coase. The implication is that if the airline witnesses testified along the lines the prosecution wants in Mousaoui, then the civil attorneys can use that sworn testimony for witness impeachment when those same witnesses testify in the civil trial. So the argument is, Martin was trying to shore up the airline’s corporate defense attorneys and in the process may have completely screwed up the government’s prosecution case vs Mousaoui.

Thus far, this is just an allegation, and all the emails relating to Martin’s contact with the corporate defense attorneys are not yet available. But if true, it puts yet another spin on this already bizarre case and serves as a particularly nasty example of corporate influence on the Bush administration.

Basically this whole Mousaoui trial is a waste of time: it would have been smarter to just accept his guilty plea to conspiracy and slap him in prison for life without parole. But the Justice dept wanted a death conviction (for political reasons IMO), which unfortunately put them at odds with the corporate interests of the airlines. And we may be seeing who really wears the pants in the Bush admin :0.

I cannot believe this shit. What, she’s trying to save the airlines from a suit no one has tried to file?

Huh? What about, “The 9/11 victims are suing many of the airlines alleging that 9/11 could have been stopped with security measures (like screening out short knives etc) and the Airlines are defending saying 9/11 was not preventable and not forseeable.”?

Yeah, based on the article there is a lawsuit going on - theres even a reference to a civil court judge.

That’s not the point of all this though: the point is there is certainly at least an appearance of corporate influence on a major criminal / terrorism case.

Oh, they actually have filed? Didn’t know that.

Does anyone think they’ll actually win?

wow that is an interesting twist for sure.

Not sure if folks saw, but Judge Brinkema reduced the scope of her sanctions ruling to permit untainted witnesses with no contact with Martin to testify.