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Judge: Moussaoui Competent to Enter Guilty Plea

Aired July 25, 2002 - 13:39   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.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: More details on that hearing now that's taking place surrounding Zacarias Moussaoui. We are going to head to our Deborah Feyerick now. She has come out of the courtroom, and talk to her about what she heard and what we have learned thus far.

Deb, my first question is, I'm getting four different pronunciations on this man's name. Would you please tell me, for the record, how it's being pronounced?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the record, he himself pronounces Zacarias Moussaoui. So that is his pronunciation of his first name.

Let me tell what you happened in court just a few minutes ago. Zacarias Moussaoui pleaded guilty it counts one, two, three and four, but not counts five and six. What does that mean? Let me break it down for you. He has pleaded guilty to count one, conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries. He says he pleads guilty to count two, conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy. He says he's pleading guilty to count three, conspiracy to destroy an aircraft. He says he's also pleading guilty to count four; that is conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction.

He is not pleading guilty to counts five and of six. That means he is not pleading guilty to conspiracy to murder U.S nationals and he is not pleading guilty to conspiracy to destroy property. During the hearing, he said to the judge, if I admitted to everything the prosecutors alleged against me, then I myself would seek the death penalty for me. But I'm not pleading guilty to everything, just counts, one, two, three and four.

This morning, the judge did give him an opportunity to meet with a law professor from NYU in New York. He would not represent -- the law professor would not represent hat nature of the conversations were. But the judge did ask Moussaoui if, based on this 20-minute conversation, did he want to perhaps take more time to consider what he had discussed with the law professor. Moussaoui said no, he was ready to go, he was ready to plead guilty.

He is very adamant about getting his case to a jury. He basically said, I know that the American people are my enemies, but, he said, there our honest enemies. And it is those honest enemies, the jury, made up of 12 men and women, who he wants to judge him as to whether he should be sentenced to death, or whether he should serve life in prison.

Now, during this hearing, also, there had been a motion by a lawyer Moussaoui is intent on representing him, there had been a motion to basically get Judge Brinkema tossed from the case. But during this case, a U.S. marshal approached her with a note, saying that the fourth circuit court of appeals had denied the motion to take her out of this entire hearing.

So that's where we are now. He is pleading guilty to counts one, two, three, and four, but not five and six. The judge right now is going through that very intricate process, Kyra, where she asks him question after question about each of those counts, about the extent of his involvement in each of those counts.

Again, what we don't know is will Mr. Moussaoui be able to give her the kind of information she wants to actually accept these guilty pleas -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Let's talk about these pleas. I thought previously if he were to plead guilt, he would have to plead guilty to all of the charges?

FEYERICK: Well, and that is an outstanding question, and it's not clear right now how the court is going to handle that, and how prosecutors will handle that. We will tell you that U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Virginia is sitting in the front row, and he is listening very carefully, so whether this then later goes to trial on counts five and six, that will be determined.

PHILLIPS: So do you get a sense that he is actually understanding the legal system? You heard him -- well, you have been listening to him for a long time now. Today, does he seem any different from the way he was last week when you said he seemed very anxious, and he was blurting things out? Do you see a difference in his character?

FEYERICK: He seemed much calmer, there is no question about it. He also seemed a little bit more in control of himself, and in a way, a little bit more in control of the courtroom. What I mean about that is right at beginning, the judge told Mr. Moussaoui to go to the lectern, and he actually ignored her for a good 20 seconds while he shifted through a file of papers he had on his desk, making the point that when he was good and ready, that's when he would go to the lectern, and that's really what he did.

But he did seem calm, he did seem to have a very distinct understanding of all of the rules that he has to consider. The prosecutors, in the meantime, Kyra, walking in with this very thick legal books, these codes of criminal conduct, because every time he says something, they have to double-check and reference and see whether in fact he can do that. So, again, this is a very lengthy process, and this is sort of where all the nitty gritty gets hammered out.

PHILLIPS: Deborah Feyerick, thank you.

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