Moussaoui Goes to Prison After Last Taunt
Thursday, May 4, 2006; 12:38 AM
ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui escaped the death penalty Wednesday as a jury decided he deserved life in prison instead for his role in the bloodiest terrorist attack in U.S. history. "America, you lost," Moussaoui taunted.
After seven days of deliberation, the nine men and three women rebuffed the government's appeal for death for the only person charged in this country in the four suicide jetliner hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.
Three jurors said Moussaoui had only limited knowledge of the Sept. 11 plot, and three described his role in the attacks as minor, if he had any role at all.
Moussaoui, as he was led from the courtroom after the 15-minute hearing, said: "America, you lost. ... I won." He clapped his hands as he was escorted away.
Some victims' families said he got what he deserved.
Carie Lemack, whose mother, Judy Larocque, died on hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center, said her mom didn't believe in the death penalty and would have been glad Moussaoui was sentenced to life. "This man was an al-Qaida wannabe who could never put together the 9/11 attacks," Lemack said. "He's a wannabe who deserves to rot in jail."
But Patricia Reilly, who lost her sister Lorraine Lee in the New York attacks, was deflated. "I guess in this country you can kill 3,000 people and not pay with your life," she said. "I feel very much let down by this country."
From the White House, President Bush said the verdict "represents the end of this case but not an end to the fight against terror." He said Moussaoui got a fair trial and the jury spared his life, "which is something that he evidently wasn't willing to do for innocent American citizens."
The verdict came after four years of legal maneuvering and a six-week trial that put jurors on an emotional roller coaster and gave the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent a platform to needle Americans and mock the pain of the victims' families.
Judge Leonie Brinkema was to hand down the life sentence Thursday morning, bound by the jury's verdict. Offering assurance to the losing side, she told prosecutors: "The government always wins when justice is done." Moussaoui smiled at that.
It was a stinging defeat for the Justice Department and Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, a former federal prosecutor in Alexandria who was overseeing the case. He said afterward, "The jury has spoken and we respect and accept that verdict."
Moussaoui is expected to spend the rest of his life at the federal maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo.