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U.S. Attorney Outlines Charges John Walker Faces

Aired January 24, 2002 - 09:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news to share for you. CNN has gotten information that a U.S. soldier has sustained a minor wound outside of Kandahar, about 60 miles outside of Kandahar. He is a member of our special forces. He apparently hit a pocket of Al Qaeda resistance. Once again, CNN confirming that it was a minor wound. This is of course the first indication we have had recently of any return fire coming from pockets of Al Qaeda resistance.

Also, we need to bring you up to date on the fact John Walker's court appearance is now under way.

Let's turn to Susan Candiotti, who standing by outside that federal courthouse in Virginia, where this is taking place.

Susan, can you tell us what's taking place so far?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning.

It's over with. The hearing lasted only about 15 minutes. This was John Walker's first appearance. He walked inside the courtroom looking very tall, thin and a little bit gaunt, I thought. His head cleanly shaven with a little bit of hair. He looked around the courtroom as he was led in, but he did not appear to be handcuffed.

His parents, John Lindh and Marilyn Walker, who are amicably divorced, were sitting right in front of me. They told me just before the hearing began that they did have an opportunity to meet with their son downstairs in the courthouse on the lower floor, that they met with him for about 20 minutes, and in the words of his father, he's in very good condition. And his father told us, he accepted his representation, his counsel. In effect, he added he had wanted to see his lawyers for some time.

It was a very formal hearing, as they went through what needed to be done, and that was the magistrate reading the charges to John Walker, and there is little question now he will be represented by attorney James Brosnahan and a team of other three former federal prosecutors. He is one also. He addressed court on behalf of his client.

We also heard from John Walker. He spoke three times to the court. First after the charges were read, the judge asked if he understood them. He responded, "Yes, I do." Then the government summarized what the penalties were. He was asked if he understood. He said, "Yes, I understand." And then determined that he would be held in pretrial detention. There will be a preliminary examination at that time. Also it's possible that a grand jury might have met by that time, and an indictment might possibly be forthcoming.

There was at one point during the procedure where the lawyer representing John Walker addressed the court, and he told the judge that his client was arrested back on December the 1st, and that he went 54 days without seeing a lawyer. According to James Brosnahan, his client, John Walker, asked to see a lawyer, but he was refused one -- Paula.

ZAHN: All right, Susan Candiotti, thanks so much for that update.

Back here with my colleagues Jack Cafferty and Anderson Cooper, and I guess that was just as pro forma as many attorneys indicated it would. The interesting note -- actually let's go to federal prosecutor McNulty now, who is speaking to prosecutors outside of the courthouse.

Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

PAUL MCNULTY U.S. ATTORNEY: ... to most by now, they basically fall into four counts. First, conspiracy to kill nationals on the United States outside of the United States, second to provide material, resources, support to terrorist organization, and that actually is the second and third count, to different terrorist organizations, are specified in the complaint, including Al Qaeda. And fourth, to engage in prohibited transactions with the Taliban, on the Afghani government, led by the Taliban.

Those are the charges. Those charges are very serious. This is certainly a matter that has -- of utmost gravity with it, and he understands the charges.

The -- Mr. Brosnahan and his firm have been designated as counsel in his defense. And the magistrate Judge Sewell set a detention hearing and a preliminary hearing for February 6th. I believe that's a 10:00 in the morning.

Now he will be detained pending that hearing, and therefore, the next step will be the preliminary hearing. The government does have the right under the criminal rules to seek an indictment, and if an indictment is sought and returned by the grand jury, then a preliminary hearing would not take place.

Mr. John Walker Lindh also had an opportunity to meet with his family this morning, and he also met with his counsel privately before the hearing.

And I will take a few questions.

QUESTION: Has he had advice of counsel before this?

MCNULTY: He had the right to meet with counsel, and he met with them this morning.

QUESTION: Before then?

QUESTION: The lawyer report maybe opening shot that Walker not able to see (UNINTELLIGIBLE) reasonable amount of time. How do you answer those complaints?

MCNULTY: I won't discuss the legal issue raised by defense counsel this morning concerning when he had a right to see an attorney. That will be issue obviously that will be addressed in due course. I will draw your attention, however, to the complaint and the affidavit that's attached to the complaint, which sets forth the fact that Mr. Walker had signed a statement waiving his right to a counsel when he spoke to the FBI, and that's set forth in the complaint.

QUESTION: How do you explain the letter that he sent to his family, saying that he was glad to have counsel? How do you explain that?

MCNULTY: I am not going to discuss this morning, again, the issues associated with this question of legal representation, except to say that he is being provided as all defendants in federal district court would be provided the full panoply of rights, and that includes right to counsel. He has very competent counsel, and we will work through issues in due course.

QUESTION: Are you posting bail in the case?

QUESTION: Is there a possibility that you will bring other charges against him, including the possibility of treason?

MCNULTY: Well, the investigate of this matter, as the attorney general said last week, is ongoing, and the possibility for additional charges is always there as an investigation continues, so we can't rule out that possibility at this point.

QUESTION: Is the government opposed to any bail in this case?

MCNULTY: Well, as the government said this morning, we believe that there's reason for detaining Mr. Walker Lindh, and we set forth those reasons. They're specified in the United States law. The presumption is in the law, set very clearly for anyone who might be a risk to flee or present any danger to the community, and the question of his detention will be sorted through at the hearing coming up in February.

QUESTION: Mr. McNulty, is it important to your case these statements he made up to this point be included in the evidence that he presents?

MCNULTY: Well, I'm not going to characterize the importance of any particular piece of evidence. I think that the complaint speaks for itself in relation to the initial charges and how the statements he has made have been used. But we will look at all of the evidence we have and make decisions at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: Is he being questioned on the ongoing investigation on the Taliban and Al Qaeda actions?

MCNULTY: I can't comment on any particular investigative effort that's under way. Or I'm not confirming that there's such an investigation taking place.

QUESTION: Would you allow that?

MCNULTY: I am not going to comment on that.

QUESTION: Sir, was the FBI present when you met with his family and counsel?

MCNULTY: I can't comment on any procedures or arrangements made with regard to visits. That's a matter of security and also is a -- not something that can be disclosed. Any other questions?

QUESTION: That's a new charge, isn't it?

MCNULTY: These are the charges that were originally set forth in the affidavit, and complaint also specifies these four areas.

Let me just say in conclusion that we are going to make sure as best we possibly can, and I have great confidence that we will afford every right that is present under the law, and we will proceed in this very serious matter as is appropriate.

And thank you very much.

ZAHN: All right, you've just been listening to federal prosecutor Paul McNulty help us all better understand what transpired at this first court appearance that John Walker attended this morning. He outlined the charges that Walker faces, not ruling out the possibility of additional charges.

Now here at the same time, we have the president heading to a mayor's conference at the White House. He is expected to make some remarks shortly. This could be a pretty testy meeting. The mayors are asking to be repayed for the billions of dollars they have had to spend defending their cities from terrorist attacks.

And what is at issue here is the issue of block grants. The mayors would like to spend as they see fit, and they feel the administration is offering targeted assistance. These mayors that you are seeing in the room today will later travel by Amtrak to New York City to talk more about these issues, and when the president begins his address to the mayors, we will take it live, and then we'd like to review on the other side more about what Paul McNulty had to say about John Walker.

I will day on this picture for a second. Perhaps the toughest question Mr. McNulty was asked, and you know, Jack and Anderson, you are welcome to chime in here, is whether his client -- or whether John Walker had access to his attorneys in advance of the preliminary hearing. He said absolutely. He said what remains to be heard is the issue at what point he had any legal counsel in advance of this morning. COOPER ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His counsel yesterday said in a press conference that they -- the family and the counsel had just received a letter dated January 8th from John Walker, saying that he knew of the fact his family had hired counsel, but he had not had an opportunity to meet with that counsel yet, and he was eager to meet with them. The family just got that letter yesterday, and that was the first they learned that John Walker knew he had counsel.

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