Judge tells Moussaoui that he `will die with a whimper'

At sentencing, conspirator hurls epithets and victims' kin assail him

May 05, 2006|By RICHARD A. SERRANO

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- For all his taunts, jeers and bombast, Zacarias Moussaoui did not get the last word.

When he was formally sentenced yesterday for his role as a Sept. 11 conspirator, U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema had the final say.

And she did it with a touch of poetry.

"You came here to be a martyr, and to die in a great big bang of glory," the judge told him. "But to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper. The rest of your life you will spend in prison."

Moussaoui tossed out epithets as he was led away. He said he would be "liberated" before President Bush leaves office. He said he was a "soldier of God," and that the United States. "is an army of Satan."

Moussaoui, a 37-year-old French Moroccan, is likely to live out his days at the federal maximum-security prison in Florence, Colo.

On Wednesday, a federal jury voted to spare his life instead of ordering his execution. That prompted Moussaoui to boast that "America lost, I won."

Yesterday, the judge told him he was wrong and that the victor was the judicial system.

Moussaoui, who has spent 4 1/2 years in custody, was arrested three weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks. He has said that he was sent to the United States to learn how to fly and that his mission was to pilot a fifth hijacked plane into the White House.

Moussaoui is the only person to be prosecuted in the United States in connection with the worst terrorist attack in the nation's history.

Defense attorney Alan H. Yamamoto, in the first order of business yesterday, told the court that Moussaoui had refused to discuss the pre-sentence report other than to say he wished there were more in it about his apartment in France, his travels to Chechnya and an old friend in England, Zavier Jaffo.

Robert A. Spencer, the chief prosecutor, rose next. He said the day should be devoted to the 2,972 people killed on Sept. 11. During the trial, everyone was touched by their suffering, he said, "except that man, Zacarias Moussaoui."

"He listened without remorse and reveled in the pain and despair of those victims who testified. And it is impossible for the rest of us to fathom his hatred and his venom and his murderous intent," Spencer said.

Yamamoto agreed, saying, "We believe the sentence is a proper sentence, that he should spend the rest of his life incarcerated for his participation in this conspiracy."

A row of seats in the middle of the courtroom was reserved for the victims' relatives, and three of them took up the judge's offer to address the court. They had words only for Moussaoui.

Rosemary Dillard, whose husband, Eddie, was killed on the plane that hit the Pentagon, said, "I want you, Mr. Moussaoui, to know how you wrecked my life. You wrecked my career. You took the most important person in my life from me."

Abraham Scott, whose wife was killed at the Pentagon, stared at Moussaoui and told him that he had avoided death but that his leader, Osama bin Laden, would not.

"I look forward to bringing your colleague, whatever you call him, your God or whatever, bin Laden, to justice in this courtroom," Scott said. "And he will be here, trust me."

If that day comes, Scott said, "I'm hoping and praying that he will be put to death."

Lisa Dolan, widow of Navy Capt. Bob Dolan, who also was killed at the Pentagon, had the least to say to Moussaoui. "Only one thing, there is still one final Judgment Day," she told him.

Permitted by law to speak at his sentencing, Moussaoui began to mock the three victims, but the judge cut him off. He mocked the United States instead, as he had done throughout the trial.

"You have branded me as a terrorist or whatever, a criminal, a thug." But "you should look about yourself first," he said. "I fight for my belief, and I'm a mujahid, and you think that you own the world, and I would prove it that you are wrong."

Americans do not understand people like him and Mohamed Atta, the hijacker who flew the first plane into the World Trade Center. "We will come back another day," he said.

He cursed the United States and praised bin Laden, saying, "You will never get him."

Brinkema, speaking last, said that if Moussoaui thought he had won, he should look around the crowded courtroom, filled with lawyers, victims' families and federal marshals.

"They are free to go anyplace they want," the judge said. "They can go outside, and they can feel the sun. They can smell fresh air. They can hear the birds In terms of winners and losers, it's quite clear who won yesterday and who lost yesterday."

Moussaoui interrupted, saying, "That was my choice."

"It was hardly your choice," the judge retorted.

Richard A. Serrano writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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