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Khatallah Back In Court For Additional Charges

Looking very much like an Old-Testament prophet, Ahmed Salim Faraj Abu Khatallah was arraigned Monday on 17 additional charges related to the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.

Khatallah said nothing as he stood in a green jumpsuit with “Alexandria Inmate” stenciled on the back while his lawyer, federal public defender Michelle Peterson, entered for him a plea of not guilty.

No trial date has yet been set as the prosecutors say they need more time to gather and redact the “thousands and thousands of pages” and hundreds of hours of video before turning them over to the defense.

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The Latest White House Fence Jumper

He scaled the fence but unlike the previous intruder three weeks ago Dominic Adesanya never made it all the way across the lawn and into the White House. He was stopped by Hurricane and Jordan, two Secret Service dogs with whom he fought until officers took him down.

Clearly deranged, his arm and fingers bandaged, Adesanya repeatedly tried to speak during his appearance before a federal magistrate. He resisted as he was led out of the courtroom.

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Black Aggie and the Doomsday Binder

I didn’t expect to have much fun covering two days of a trial relating to the government’s 2008 bailout of AIG, but I was mistaken.

It was fascinating to hear former Fed. chairman Bernanke describe the near financial collapse as more severe than the great depression of the 1930’s, and that there exists a “doomsday book”, a collection of emergency documents and memoranda outlining the central bank’s powers, that Timothy Geithner carried around in a 2-inch binder.

Even better was coming across the statue of Black Aggie in the courtyard of the building housing the Federal Circuit and Court of Federal Claims. Black Aggie used to reside at Druid Ridge cemetery in the Baltimore suburb of Pikesville. She sat over the tomb of Union Army general and publisher of the Baltimore American newspaper Felix Agnus until the mid 1960’s when the family gave the statue to the Smithsonian. For years Black Aggie was the subject of ghostly lore and attracted midnight visitors who trampled the gravesite to sit in her lap.

 

As forty-three year resident of Baltimore who loves his adopted city I can’t help feeling a little resentful at DC’s acquisition.

Back to the AIG trial, on the face of it this effort by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg to sue the government for saving AIG’s ass seems pretty preposterous. He doesn’t seem to acknowledge that the point of the bailout wasn’t to benefit AIG shareholders but to avoid the freezing of global insurance markets and financial meltdown. Greenberg’s legal team is led by super-lawyer David Boies, but I hope this is one time Boies loses.

Here are the rest of my sketches from my two days at the Court of Federal Claims. Note in the unfinished sketch the shelves full of binders on each side of the courtroom.

 

 

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White House Intruder Back in Court

Omar Gonzalez appeared before magistrate judge Deborah Robinson for arraignment on charges stemming from the Sept. 19 incident in which he managed to scale the fence, run across the lawn and enter the White House before finally being stopped in the East Room. Gonzalez did not speak during the twenty minute hearing letting his lawyer, federal public defender David Bos, enter a plea of not guilty for him. He also waived his rights to a formal reading of the charges and to a detention hearing.

Judge Robinson ordered a mental competency screening for Gonzalez which his lawyer vigorously opposed. As the judge and defense attorney Bos argued about the competency screening Gonzalez himself seemed to recede into a wallflower.

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White House Fence Jumper In Court

Omar Gonzalez, the first fence jumper who managed to enter the front door of the White House after sprinting 70 yards across the lawn without being stopped by the Secret Service, appeared before a Federal magistrate yesterday. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit, sporting a goatee and what little bit of hair he had pulled back into a small knot, Gonzalez appeared alert and to understand what was happening.

The government prosecutor informed the court that Mr. Gonzalez is facing charges in Virginia for possession of a sawed-off shotgun and eluding police after a 20-mile car chase. Also found in the Ford Bronco Gonzalez was driving when he was arrested July 19 were two sniper rifles, an assault rifle, a bolt-action rifle, another shotgun and five handguns along with ammo and a map of the DC area with a circle drawn around the masonic temple in Alexandria and a line drawn from it to the White House. The only weapon illegal in Virginia was the sawed-off !

 

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McDonnell Closing Arguments

Grateful for not having to go down to Richmond to sketch the trial of former governor Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, I had a pleasant summer paying little attention to the news accounts. The prosecution on charges that the couple accepted gifts and loans from a vitamin magnate in exchange for favors seemed a little thin, and despite the unusual defense that the McDonnells could not have conspired because their marriage was on the rocks the story did not hold my attention.

But then Thursday evening, wouldn’t you know it, I got the call to jump in at the last minute, so I set the alarm for 4:00 and made the three hour drive to Richmond early yesterday morning.

It was a full day, but really not bad.

The prosecutor’s argument to the jury – Assistant U.S. Attorney David Harbach, mislabeled on my sketch above – was pretty convincing; at least to me, who knows nothing. For over two and a half hours he laid out in detail the quids and the quos. I don’t think the bad-marriage defense was even addressed; speaking of which, pictured on the right in my sketch above is Father Wayne Ball with whom Bob McDonnell has been bunking in the rectory.

Of course once the defense lawyers had made their arguments I was back to questioning the government’s case. As Bob McDonnell’s lawyer, Hank Asbill told the jury, “there was no quo, and there was no plan.” I’ll buy that.

I missed much of the prosecution’s rebuttal because I had to leave the courthouse to scan and upload my last sketches. I probably would have been swayed back to the government’s side, but at the end of the day I’d have to say that it looks like a fifty-fifty crapshoot going to the jury.

On Tuesday Judge James R. Spencer will charge the jury and deliberations will begin.

 

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Abu Khattala Meets His Trial Judge

Abu Khattala

“From here on out you are stuck with me,” US District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper told Ahmed Abu Khattala. The Benghazi suspect has previously twice appeared in court but this was his first time before the trial judge  At the conclusion of the very brief status hearing – which didn’t reveal much beyond that the judge’s wife used to work for the DOJ – Judge Cooper set the next hearing date in September. It’s likely we’ll see Khattala before then as a grand jury is expected to bring additional charges.

You may wonder how I got in so much detail of the courtroom in the short time, maybe 15 minutes that the hearing lasted. Most of it, on the left side, was sketched during an hour-long hearing in a civil case that preceded Khattala’s. I did the background, the court  reporter and the judge, leaving only the lawyers and defendant to do once the actual hearing got under way. Some have been critical of this approach, saying the drawing should be done entirely as the events unfold. I don’t agree. I’m telling a nonfiction story about what I have witnessed, and I need to use certain tools to edit, compress, and highlight so that my story/drawing is readable. I even went further and pulled Khattala from the background to the foreground. Is that wrong?

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Benghazi Suspect Back In Court

Ahmed Abu Khattala, suspect in the attack on the american embassy in Benghazi, was back in a Washington courtroom for a detention hearing. I failed to notice it last time but Khattala appears to have a zebibah, or prayer bump, on his forehead. Zacarias Moussaoui developed one about halfway through his trial; I wonder if he still has it, and if it’s any larger after eight years in solitary.

There was some trouble setting up the audio for the translator so we had a little more time to observe Khattala as they tried to get his earphones working.

As expected the government asked that Khatalla be held without bail, and his lawyer, Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson said Mr. Khattala had no objection for now.

Khattala will be back in court next Tuesday.

 

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Benghazi Terror Suspect Appears in US Court

“He looks like Moses” said the US marshal as he looked at the sketch I was working on. He did indeed look pretty wild as he was escorted into a DC courtroom looking perplexed. Two weeks ago he was seized on the Libyan coast and brought here aboard a U.S. warship.

“I never knew Santa Claus was a terrorist”, someone tweeted in response to my Twitter post of the above sketch.

Khattala will be back in court on Wednesday for a detention hearing. I wonder if the flak-vested heavily armed US marshals will again be out in full force around the courthouse?

 

 

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The McDonnell’s Day In Court

Former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell and his wife Maureen bowed their heads in prayer before entering the first of two courtrooms in U.S. District Court, Richmond.

Their first appearance was before Magistrate Judge David J. Novak, who ordered the couple to surrender their passports but set no bail.

The crowd then moved to a larger courtroom on the seventh floor where McDonnell and his wife were separately arraigned before Judge James R. Spencer.

WaPo story here.

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