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In a stunning setback to President Obama’s approach to trying terrorism suspects, the first Guantanamo detainee to be prosecuted in civilian court nearly walked free when a jury found him not guilty on all but one of 285 terror-related counts yesterday.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian, beat weighty charges such as conspiracy to kill US nationals and conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which claimed 224 lives.
He was convicted only on Count 5, a minor charge of conspiracy to damage or destroy US property with explosives.
But that count includes a subsection that asks jurors if the defendant’s conduct caused death of persons other than his co-conspirators – and the jury said “yes.”
That lone guilty verdict is enough to send the terrorist to jail for at least 20 years under federal sentencing guidelines, and maybe for the rest of his life.
Ghailani, 36, smiled during the eight minutes it took to read all the charges.
“We respect the jury’s verdict and are pleased that Ahmed Ghailani now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and a potential life sentence,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
The failure to pin more serious convictions on Ghailani is likely to be seen as a setback for Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo and try 174 terrorism suspects in civilian courts.
The detainees at Guantanamo include Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
While the feds obtained a conviction, it was not on the more serious charges they needed to set a precedent for future prosecutions.
The major problem was prosecutors’ inability to establish how much Ghailani knew about the attacks or his involvement in the bombings.
Defense attorneys were elated at the jury’s conclusion, and said they plan to appeal the single conviction.
“This verdict is a reaffirmation that this nation’s judicial system is the greatest ever devised. It is truly a system of laws and not men,” said defense lawyer Peter Quijano.
Ghailani was transferred from Guantanamo Bay to New York in June 2009.
Following several tense days of deliberations, prosecutors were lucky to get even the one conviction, after seeing their case nearly implode in a mistrial.
The panel, which deliberated for a week, reached its decision two days after one juror asked to be excused, saying she was being “attacked” for her dissenting opinion.
But the jurors went back to work and reached the single unanimous verdict.
“You have reason to feel proud,” said Judge Lewis Kaplan. “You have all done your duty. Our nation is a better place. I and everyone else have been struck by the way you did your duty. You reviewed the evidence with great care.”
The government accused Ghailani of buying seven gas cylinders used in the bombs and the truck used to transport them.
The San Mateo district attorney’s office has a warning for all TSA personnel at SFO – anyone inappropriately touching a passenger during a security pat down will be prosecuted.
“The case would be reviewed and if we could prove the elements of it, that it was inappropriately done with a sexual or lewd intent, that person would be prosecuted,” incoming San Mateo DA Steve Wagstaffe said.
An Ohio woman traveling with her infant son says a pat-down by a TSA screener went too far. “She sexually assaulted me,” Erin Chase complained Wednesday of the intrusive search.
“She needs to lose her job,” she said of the TSA employee. Chase’s complaint is just one of thousands pouring in from frustrated air passengers over the TSA’s recently implemented security checks.
A state-owned Chinese telecommunications firm “hijacked” Internet traffic in April, affecting traffic from U.S. government domains and raising serious implications for Internet safety.
For about 18 minutes on April 8, 2010, China Telecom diverted U.S. and other foreign Internet traffic through servers in China, according to a report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
The federal government’s improper payments totaled about $125 billion in fiscal 2010 as unemployment insurance and Medicaid payments increased, officials said Tuesday.
The total improper payment amount climbed $15 billion from the previous year. The payments included about 89,000 checks sent to dead or incarcerated people as part of the economic stimulus program.
The popular student body president at California State University, Fresno has publicly revealed a personal detail he long sought to keep secret: He is an illegal immigrant.
Pedro Ramirez, 22, previously told campus administrators in confidence that he was concerned about going public with his immigration status after winning the top post in student government.
A Swedish prosecutor said Thursday she had requested the arrest of Julian Assange, the founder of whistleblower website WikiLeaks, to face charges of rape and sexual molestation.
“I request the District Court of Stockholm to detain Mr. Assange in his absence, suspected of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion,” Swedish director of prosecutions Marianne Ny said in a statement.
In an astonishing breakthrough, a team of British and international physicists were able to ‘trap’ 38 atoms of anti-hydrogen in a laboratory for a fraction of a second.
While the experiment is unlikely to lead to the warp engines, anti-matter drives or the faster than light travel of Star Trek, it could shed light on the nature and origins of the Universe.
Police arrested a woman in Idaho’s capital city after they say she impersonated a plastic surgeon and conducted breast exams on at least two women in local bars.
Kristina B. Ross was arrested and jailed on accusations of unlicensed practice of medicine. It all started when Boise police were called to a downtown medical office by employees of a licensed plastic surgeon.
A disagreement over the budget erupted into fisticuffs when Graciela Camano punched opposition politician Carlos Kunkel in the mouth.
Two TV news channels were broadcasting the session in the capital Buenos Aires when Ms Camano got out of her chair to confront Mr Kunkel. The two exchanged words, then Ms Camano slapped Mr Kunkel in the mouth and walked out of the chamber.
Steven N. Cowan, a 66-year-old Verona man was jailed Tuesday after he allegedly shot his television and created a 15-hour standoff with police, all because Bristol Palin had not yet been voted off Dancing With The Stars.
Cowan and his wife were watching the show when he became irate because Bristol Palin was still on the show, and he did not think that she was a good dancer.
A mother told Russian airport officials her daughter was a suicide bomber in a desperate bid to stop her flying away to get married.
Police scrambled to intercept the unsuspecting bride-to-be as her plane was prevented from taking off from Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. But when authorities realised the tip-off was bogus they traced the anonymous call back to the woman’s mother.