By Julienne Gage
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, April 24, 2008
MIAMI, April 23 -- Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that they will try for the third time to convict six men accused of plotting to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and attack other buildings.
"The United States has decided it's necessary to proceed, your honor, one more time to a jury," prosecuting attorney Richard Gregorie told U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard at a hearing.
In arguing for a new trial, Gregorie pointed to taped conversations obtained by the FBI in which the leader of the "Liberty City Seven," Narseal Batiste, made threatening comments about citizens of the United States.
"In referring to Americans, Mr. Batiste said he wanted to kill all the devils," Gregorie told the judge.
The defendants, of whom six remain under threat of prosecution, were arrested June 23, 2006, at a warehouse in Miami's low-income Liberty City neighborhood, where FBI informants posing as al-Qaeda operatives persuaded the men to pledge an allegiance to the terrorist organization and offered them $50,000 to take part in a terror plot. Among the activities some the men engaged in were taking pictures of federal buildings around Miami. During both of the previous trials, Batiste testified that he and his followers agreed to the informants' proposal only because they thought they could con them out of the money.
The government argued that the defendants planned to use the money to finance the plot. Prosecutors presented hundreds of video and audio recordings, including the oath-taking ceremony, but they could not show that the men had any weapons, explosives or ammunition on them at the time of their arrest.
On Dec. 13, 2007, after deliberating nine days, a jury in Miami acquitted defendant Lyglenson Lemorin of all charges. It deadlocked on the charges brought against the other six. A second jury deadlocked April 16 after 13 days of deliberations.
While some critics have said these mistrials are a blow for the Bush administration's anti-terrorism efforts, former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey defended the government's decision to try the men one more time.
"It's not a surprising decision given the seriousness of the allegations and the Department of Justice's focus on terrorism," Coffey said. "We can expect that they would pursue defendants unless or until the prospects of conviction are truly hopeless."
The trial will likely take place in late fall or early winter, Lenard said.