[Ppnews] Jurors Deadlock on 6 of 7 in Sears Plot

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Dec 13 20:23:34 EST 2007


December 13, 2007
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/us/13cnd-liberty.html?hp

Jurors Deadlock on 6 of 7 in Sears Plot

By 
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/kirk_semple/index.html?inline=nyt-per>KIRK 
SEMPLE

MIAMI ­ A jury in the two-month terrorism trial 
of seven indigent men accused of plotting to wage 
an armed jihad against the government acquitted 
one of the defendants on Thursday but said they 
could not reach verdicts for the other six.

The impasse, which came after nine days of 
deliberations, forced United States District 
Judge Joan Lenard to declare a mistrial for the remaining six defendants.

The United States District Attorney’s office in 
Miami said immediately that it would move to 
retry the six men, who were accused of planning 
to join forces with 
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/a/al_qaeda/index.html?inline=nyt-org>Al 
Qaeda to blow up the Sears Tower and several 
federal buildings as part of a plot to overthrow the American government.

The result was a significant defeat for the Bush 
Administration, which had trumped the case as a 
major crackdown on homegrown terrorists.

When the men were arrested in June 2006, American 
officials acknowledged that the group of 
defendants never acquired weapons or equipment 
and posed no immediate threat. But administration 
officials, including then-Attorney General 
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/g/alberto_r_gonzales/index.html?inline=nyt-per>Alberto 
R. Gonzales, said the case underscored the need 
for pre-emptive terrorism prosecutions.

The case was criticized by some legal scholars 
and analysts as a case of over-reaching by an 
over-zealous government eager to score a victory 
in the post-Sept. 11 fight against terrorism.

Jeff Agron, 46, the jury’s foreman, told 
reporters outside the courthouse in downtown 
Miami that the complexity of the case ­ with 
seven defendants each facing four conspiracy 
counts ­ made for “tough” deliberations.

“There were just different takes by different 
people,” he said, even though he declined to 
elaborate how the 12 jurors split on each count 
and each defendant. “I feel that we did the best job that we could.”

He said the jury believed that of the four counts 
against the defendants, the weakest was the 
government’s charge that the men conspired to 
wage war against the United States. The other 
charges against the men were conspiracy to 
provide material support to Al Qaeda, conspiracy 
to destroy federal buildings and conspiracy to 
provide material support for the destruction of federal buildings.

The seven men each faced up to 70 years in prison 
if they had been convicted on the four charges against them.

The case seemed headed for a mistrial last 
Thursday when the racially mixed jury, in a note 
to the judge, first suggested it was struggling 
to reach agreement on verdicts for all seven. The 
group sent a second, similar note on Monday and 
the judge responded by reading instructions 
designed to bring the case to a resolution.

Shortly before 2:30 on Thursday afternoon, the 
jury sent out another note saying they had 
reached a verdict on one defendant, acquitting 
Lyglenson Lemorin, 32, who had been cast by the 
prosecution as a junior foot soldier in the 
group. On the other six, the note said, “We 
believe no further progress can be made.”

Judge Lenard set Jan. 7 as the start of jury 
selection in a new trial for the remaining six 
defendants. She imposed a gag order on the 
prosecutors and defense attorneys, prohibiting 
them from discussing Thursday’s outcome with the media.

Mr. Agron, a resident of Pinecrest, Fla., who 
described himself as an educator at a synagogue, 
said that the jury had arrived at the single 
verdict on Wednesday and reconfirmed it with another vote on Thursday.

In considering the defendants’ intentions and 
actions, Mr. Agron said, the jurors were 
compelled by evidence that suggested Mr. Lemorin 
had tried “to distance himself from the group.”

The deliberations were lively and passionate, the 
foreman said, but the jurors remained cordial with one another throughout.

The defendants worked in a small construction 
firm owned by the group’s leader, Narseal 
Batiste, 33. They were also members of the 
Moorish Science Temple, a sect that blends Islam, 
Christianity and Judaism and does not recognize 
the authority of the American government.

Dubbed the Liberty City Seven after the 
inner-city Miami neighborhood where they lived, 
the group came under government surveillance in 
September 2005 when a Yemeni man contacted the 
<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/f/federal_bureau_of_investigation/index.html?inline=nyt-org>Federal 
Bureau of Investigation to report suspicious 
activity among the men. Weeks later, prosecutors 
say, the Yemeni man reported that the men had 
asked him to help put them in contact with Al Qaeda.

The government built its case on an eight-month 
investigation involving more than 12,000 
wiretapped conversations and many hours of video 
recordings captured by hidden cameras

Federal investigators never found any military 
weapons, explosives or blueprints for a terrorist 
plot. But prosecutors contended that the group 
had nearly attained the final stage of 
“jihadization” and had the will and intent to launch a terrorist attack.

Central to the government’s evidence was a 
secretly recorded video that shows six of the men 
taking the Al Qaeda oath under the guidance of 
one of the F.B.I.’s informants. The seventh ­ Mr. 
Batiste ­ had taken the oath several days earlier.

The government’s evidence also included 
recordings of conversations in which Mr. Batiste 
discussed the initial attacks in his offensive 
and spoke about his intent to wage a “ground war” 
and to “make the people go crazy, cause chaos.” 
Prosecutors also said the group’s preparations 
included surveillance photos of federal buildings 
in Miami, wish lists of weapons and military 
equipment that Mr. Batiste submitted to one of 
the undercover F.B.I. agents and a request made 
by Mr. Batiste for $50,000 from Al Qaeda.

Throughout the trial, defense lawyers insisted 
that the men were never seriously planning to 
launch terrorist attacks and said they were 
simply playing along with an F.B.I.-engineered 
ruse to get money to fund a community center and 
Mr. Batiste’s construction business.

But Mr. Agron said the jurors were divided on 
this argument. “Some of the jurors believed it 
was a con,” he recalled, even though he said that he was not among them.

Terry Aguayo contributed reporting.





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