Friday, June 01, 2007

More news and notes

1. A former federal prosecutor, Ilona M. Holmes, turned state court judge does *not* like cell phones in her courtroom. ASA Imabel Ocasio gets 10 hours of community service for her phone going off. Ouch. Here's the Sun-Sentinel story.

2. Snitch testimony outside the presence of the jury in the Jose Padilla case. Why is the government calling these types of witnesses? Here's the LA Times on how it went for prosecutors:

In testimony that appeared to backfire for the prosecution, an ex-convict who attended the same mosque as terrorism suspect Jose Padilla testified Thursday that he himself had considered going abroad for training to become an Islamic holy warrior, as Padilla allegedly did.Herbert Atwell, 38, was the second prosecution witness to characterize the alleged actions of Padilla and two codefendants not as terrorism but as acts of altruism in helping Muslims under siege in foreign countries.
Inarticulate and at times surly under questioning by defense lawyers, Atwell conceded that he offered to testify against Padilla and Hassoun in hopes of getting out of prison. He said he was never promised any special consideration in return for supplying the government with accounts of what occurred at the Sunrise mosque, which he said he attended most evenings in the late 1990s."He was asking for money and for the brothers to be mujahedin fighters," Atwell recalled of Hassoun. "On several occasions he always had mujahedin fighters from all over the world — Chechnya, Palestine."The prosecutors seemed surprised when Atwell, under questioning by Baker, said he had considered becoming a holy warrior."I was thinking about going to be a mujahedin fighter myself," he said. "My wife was pregnant. If she wasn't pregnant, I would probably have gone to be a mujahedin fighter too."Asked whether he had wanted to become a terrorist, Atwell vehemently replied no. He said that the media now portrayed mujahedin as terrorists but that at the time they were simply Muslims coming to the aid of fellow believers.Atwell said Padilla "never talked that much" and that he remembered him mostly because of the Spanish-language Koran he would often read. Padilla is a U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent.Atwell will be brought back to testify before the jury Monday.But his credibility as a witness is in question. Judge Cooke noted that Atwell adamantly insisted he saw photos of Padilla and Hassoun on an NBC News broadcast in 2002, when Hassoun was not yet charged with a crime and no connection with Padilla had been made."These two things cannot be allowed to exist together in a truthful universe," she said of the witness' statement after he had left the courtroom. She added that she was curious how the prosecution would "deal with his credibility."Atwell reportedly has five felony convictions, including aggravated assault and battery of his now ex-wife. He contradicted himself repeatedly about what he could recall, depending on whether he was answering a question from the defense or prosecution.

Now I wonder whether the defense should have just waited to cross him in front of the jury. Will the government still call this guy?

3. Some advice for Rumpole: Don't blog about your own cases. See here.


Anonymous said...

Does that include blogging about one's own wife, the new TV judge, then quoting a letter to yourself?

Rumpole said...

The press rarely covers the disorderly conduct trials we do in Hialeah Branch Court.