"If it's my time to die, it's my time to die," said the man known as "Eddie the Painter."
Whereupon Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, alleged leader of 12 Hanafi Muslims accused of taking 149 hostages at three downtown Washington buildings in March, slugged him over the head with a pistol.
"Eddie the Painter," whose real name is Charles Edward Mason, testified yesterday that he collapsed on the concrete floor of the eighth story of the international headquarters of B'nai B'rith, the Jewish service organization, where Hanafis were holding more than 100 prisoners.
Mason told a D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday that his captors then "hogtied me" - tied him face down with hands behind his back and his hands also bound to his feet.
After his head had cleared somewhat, he "squirmed around to try to get in a more comfortable position," he testified. He said a Hanafi whom he identified as Abdul Salaam, 31, also known as Clarnece White, put his foot on him and told him to "keep still."
"I told him I'm not going to stay here like this, you might as well pull the trigger," Mason said.
Salaam did not pull the trigger. In fact, nothing happened to Mason until some hours later, when he was untied, Mason said. He said two women hostages were ordered by the Hanafis to take him to a bathroom so he could wash the wound on his head.
The events to which Mason testified meet the legal definition of a kidnaping. All 12 Hanafis are charged with armed kidnaping, murder and related offenses in connection with an alleged conspiracy to compel authorities to turn over to them five Black Muslims convicted of murdering seven members of Khaalis' family in 1973.
Another purpose of the conspiracy, according to the indictment, was to compel the removal from this country of the film "Mohammad, Messenger of God," on grounds that it was offensive to the Hanafis' faith.
In an effort to prove conspiracy, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Martins J. Linsky and Mark H. Tuohey III, the prosecutors, called to the witness stand Betty J. Neal, a B'nai B'rith employee who helped the 55-year-old Khaalis make telephone calls during much of the 39-hour siege at the organization.
On the afternoon of March 9, the day the takeovers began, Neal testified, Khaais asked the hostages assembled on the eighth floor of the B'nai B'rith building "if someone would help with the telephones."
There was silence in the room, Neal told the jury, and then she raised her hand.
"Sir, I will help you," she said to Khaalis, accoridng to her testimony.
"You're not a Jew, are you?" Khaalis replied.
"No, sir," she said.
"Then come with me. I don't want these Jew bastards answering my phone," Khaalis said, according to the testimony.
Neal said she was taken into an office. There, she said, Khaalis gave her two telephone numbers for his home at 7700 16th St. NW, where the members of his family were murdered.
She said he also gave her three telephone numbers for the Islamic Center at 2551 Massachusets Ave. NW, another site taken over by Hanafis.
"I dialed the number (of the Islamic Center) and said Khaalis wanted to speak to one of his men," she said. "(The man who answered) said, 'Put him on.' Then I gave the phone to Khaalis."
Neal said that between 5 and 6 p.m. March 9, Khaalis ordered her to call the district Building at 14th and E Streets NW. She said she finally got through after asking a telephone company supervisor for assistance in an emergency.
When the phone at the District Building was answered, she said, she reported that Khaalis was calling and that the man on the other end said, "Put him on."
Both prosecution and defense attorneys asked her numerous questions about what she had heard Khaalis say in the conversations. She replied that all she could recall was the Khaalis had said to "keep cool" and to "stay alert."
The questioning led to one of the major courtroom confrontations between lawyers for both sides and Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio so far in the trial, which began May 31.
"Did you hear anyone say that they were sorry that someone had been killed at the District Building?" asked prosecutor Linsky.
"Objection!" said numerous defense counsel.
"I would like to approach the bench and I would like to ask for a mistrial," said John Treanor, attorney for Abdul Razzaq, 23, also known as Nelson McQueen Jr. and as Norman Lee.
Nunzio reacted immediately.
"I suggest to you, sir, that that was an improper comment to make in front of the jury and that you know better," the judge said. "Strike that," he ordered the court reporter.
Harry T. Alexander, a former Superior court judge who is defending Khaalis, said Linsky's question was "reprehensible."
Alexander and the other defense attorneys moved for a mistrial on grounds that Linsky had been guilty of "prosecutorial impropriety." Nunzio denied the motion, but it was understood that the defense would renew it in writing.
Both sides were on their guard because Neal's testimony bore on the prosecution's conspiracy theory. Unless the jury can be persuaded that the Hanafis at the B'nai B'rith building the Islamic Center and the District building were acting as a result of a conspiracy, it is unlikely that all 12 Hanafis can be convicted of the murder of Maurice Williams, 24, who was killed in the takeover at the district Building.
All 12 defendants are charged with felony murder in the first degree. This is murder committed in th course of perpetrating another crime. In this case, the other crime is kidnaping. Conviction of felony murder carries a mandatory sentence of 20 years of life imprisonment.
On the charge that the purpose of the alleged conspiracy was to compel the turnover of the five Black Muslims convicted of murdering members of Khaalis's family. Deputy Police Chief Robert Rabe testified yeserday that this and other demands had been relayed to him by Khaalis by telephone. Rabe was called for the sole purpose of proving that these demands had been relayed to officials.
The first several days of the trial were taken up by the process of choosing a jury to decide one of the most highly publicized cases in the city's history. Two of the original 12 were replaced by alternate jurors Monday. One was losing substantial money from his job by reason of jury service and other was believed to have smoked marijuana at the undisclosed location where the jurors and alternates are sequestered.