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.
“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?
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.
“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?