A federal judge has agreed to delay the trial of a former professor suspected of terrorist ties, in part because of publicity about the case during the state's U.S. Senate race and the amount of evidence that lawyers must study.
U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. rescheduled the trial of former University of South Florida professor Sami Arian and his co-defendants from January to April 4.
Arian and co-defendants Sameeh Hammoudeh, Hatim Naji Fariz and Ghassan Zayed Ballut are accused of using a think tank Arian started at the school and a Palestinian charity he funded as covers for supporting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
All four have denied the charges; Arian contends he is being prosecuted because of his politically unpopular views.
Arian became a central issue in this year's Senate race because Democratic nominee Betty Castor was the school president in the 1990s when the FBI started investigating the professor. Her campaign rival, Republican Mel R. Martinez, said her failure to fire Arian indicated she was soft on terrorism.
Martinez won a narrow victory over Castor earlier this month.
Castor maintained she did all she could by placing Arian on paid leave after the allegations against him emerged. He was never charged with a crime during her tenure, and her successor did not fire him until he was indicted in 2003.
In his request for a trial delay, defense attorney William Moffitt suggested the jury pool had been tainted by campaign publicity. He said one Martinez flier included photos of hooded terrorists brandishing guns, with the words "Evil was in her midst."
Attorneys also need to wade through thousands of hours of wiretapped conversations and scores of classified documents to prepare their cases.
U.S. Attorney Paul Perez did not object to the delay.