+++ Moussaoui judge finds compromise

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge partially retreated Friday from her ruling barring all aviation security witnesses from the sentencing trial of al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema's ruling Friday restores a significant portion of the government's case.

She denied prosecutors' request to reinstate witnesses who had been improperly contacted by a government attorney. But Brinkema did agree to a compromise proposed by prosecutors, allowing the government to call "untainted" witnesses.

The government now proposes to present witnesses not handled by Carla Martin, the Transportation Security Administration lawyer whose actions caused the trial to be suspended.

"We are pleased to be able to move forward with this important case on behalf of the thousands of victims and their families," said Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos.

Martin, meanwhile, says she is prepared to tell her story in court.

She is expected to appear Monday afternoon after jurors have been dismissed for the day, according to motions filed by both Moussaoui's attorneys and federal prosecutors.

"Ms. Martin's attorney has now indicated she is now prepared to tell her story and that there is more to the story than has been revealed," Moussaoui's attorneys wrote.

They said Martin's attorney, Roscoe Howard, had told them Martin "did not act alone."

The prosecution team whose efforts were temporarily scuttled by Martin "welcomes the opportunity to examine Carla Martin," they wrote.
Three days notice

Brinkema ordered prosecutors to provide the name or names of the untainted witnesses to Moussaoui's lawyers at least three days before they testify, as required by federal law.

Defense attorneys had opposed allowing the untainted witnesses to testify.

Moussaoui's lawyers were more concerned about whether anyone could be found within TSA or the Federal Aviation Administration who has not been following the case, especially with the publicity this week.

"The existence of such a person is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine, and assurances that there is a rock at the FAA under which that person has been found should be greeted with the skepticism it plainly deserves," the defense said in court papers Thursday.

Barring testimony from all aviation witnesses would have eliminated a line of attack for the prosecution, a severe blow to the government's theory of the case.

Prosecutors argue that had Moussaoui revealed his al Qaeda connections and his real intentions for attending U.S. flight schools when federal agents questioned him in mid-August 2001, the FBI and the FAA could have taken steps to intercept some of the 19 hijackers before September 11, 2001.
Testimony limited

In her order, Brinkema limited the scope of what the untainted government aviation witness can tell the jury.

They may be questioned to describe "what United States government 'could' have done to prevent the attacks had the defendant disclosed in August 2001 the facts that he admitted in pleading guilty," Brinkema said.

The witnesses may not testify "as to what the United States government 'would' have done with this information. That type of testimony would be unduly speculative and misleading to the jury," Brinkema said.

The ruling ends a crisis in the Moussaoui trial that began March 10, when prosecutors learned Martin had e-mailed seven FAA and TSA witnesses about the trial's opening statements and the first witnesses' testimony. The contact violated a court order shielding witnesses from court proceedings until they testify.

When prosecutors revealed the problem Monday morning, Brinkema sent the jury home and held a hearing to assess the damage.
Witnesses: No impact

FAA witnesses Lynne Osmus and Claudio Manno would have testified for the government. They both said Martin's e-mails did not affect what they would have told the jury.

Martin also e-mailed four TSA employees the defense had subpoenaed as witnesses. The hearing revealed Martin had misrepresented the intentions of at least two of them by falsely informing prosecutors the witnesses refused to meet with defense attorneys.

Martin also had a hand in declassifying and collating documents chosen for trial evidence.

"My problem is, I wouldn't trust anything that Ms. Martin had anything to do with at this point," Brinkema said in announcing her original ruling barring the witnesses and evidence.

Martin has since been suspended with pay from her job and could face criminal charges.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty 11 months ago to conspiring with al Qaeda to hijack and crash planes into buildings. The only question for the jury is his punishment.

If the jury rejects the death penalty, Moussaoui, 37, a French citizen of Moroccan heritage, would be sentenced to life in prison.

source = http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/03/17/mo...ing/index.html