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Comments by YACCS
Friday, March 17, 2006

It was the airlines

Carla Martin

Talk Left explains the unforgivable bungling in the Moussaoui lynching case. While I think executing him would be shameful, that was a jury's decision. The families of the dead at least deserved a chance to make their case. But Carla Martin prevented that.

What Was Carla Martin's Agenda in Moussaoui?

TalkLeft readers know I think the death penalty case against Moussaoui is bunk, but I have been transfixed all day by why Transportation Safety Administration (and former Federal Aviation Administration) lawyer Carla Martin would send witnesses transcripts and try to coach their testimony. It was all the more puzzling to me that she sent them to both government and defense witnesses. Why coach the defense witnesses? I wrote earlier, it's shocking and makes no sense.

Like many others, I just assumed she was doing it to help the Government get a conviction against Moussaoui. Now I think otherwise. I have to swallow real hard to say this, but the prosecutors may not be at fault. Carla Martin may have had another agenda.

Martin may not have been concerned with getting a conviction against Moussaoui -- but the civil litigation over 9/11 involving the FAA and United and American Airlines. It appears to me her "partners", for lack of a better word, were not the prosecutors, but the civil lawyers representing United and American Airlines in the civil litigation, and she was trying to prevent the Moussaoui witnesses from saying something that could result in a judgment against the Government and the airlines in the civil litigation.

It's just a theory, but here's how it goes.

CBS has published the actual e-mails (pdf) sent by and to lawyer Carla J. Martin. They include cover letters from prosecutors to the Court and defense counsel.

It appears that Ms. Martin did not get the Moussaoui opening arguments transcripts of March 6 from the prosecutors or the court reporter, but from civil aviation lawyer Jeffrey Ellis, who got them from Christopher J. Christensen of the law firm Condon & Forsyth.

The prosecutors' cover letter to Court regarding the e-mails states Martin was representing some of the Moussaoui witnesses who are or were FAA employees. It also states that in the e-mails, she was giving her opinons about on-going litigation "prepared as part of her preparation for the litigation."

I take that to mean she is representing those who were employees of the FAA on 9/11. It was the responsibility of the FAA to provide airline security on 9/11. Among the issues in the civil litigation is whether the FAA, American Airlines or United Airlines were responsible for the security breaches that allowed the hijackers to crash the planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Mr. Christensen represents American Airlines in the civil ligitation over Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11. A legal assistant for the law firm, Maia L. Selinger, emailed the transcripts to Christensen at 10:24 am on March 7, 2006. At 10:27 am, Christensen forwarded the transcripts to Jeffrey Ellis, who represents United Airlines in the 9/11 civil litigation. Ellis, it appears, sent the transcripts to Carla Martin at 12:26 pm.

At 3:06 pm on March 7, Carla Martin sent the transcripts to Lynne Osmus and Claudio Mannio. They are two of the three witnesses the Government was going to call against Moussaoui about aircraft security measures in effect on 9/11. In this now declassified Legislative Staff Report (pdf) on 9/11 from the Government archives, both Osmus and Mannio are cited several times in the footnotes, and Christensen is cited twice. Moussaoui is discussed in the context of the "Phoenix EC Memo" on page 64. Martin references this memo in her emails to the witnesses.

She also sent the email to Matthew Korman, a defense witness in Moussaoui's case, who is extensively cited in the legislative report, particularly about the Phoenix memo.(see footnote 492 for example.)

So, it appears to me Ms. Martin was trying to coach and influence the witness' testimony not to convict Moussaoui, but to prevent the FAA from being found to be at fault in the civil litigation over 9/11. American and United are hoping for the same result -- hence her collaboration with their lawyers. Although I have no reason to suspect they knew she was sending the transcripts on to the trial witnesses in Moussaoui, she mentions in the e-mails that she discussed the opening statements with them (pdf.) She apparently perceived that the prosecutors in their opening statement and the first FBI agent to testify in Moussaoui's trial were jeopardizing the FAA's position in the civil litigation and she jumped in to coach the witnesses -- not so much to help the prosecutors but so she wouldn't lose her end of the civil litigation.

What she did was reprehensible. Moussaoui should not be the one to pay the price, the Government should be held responsible. If the Judge doesn't dismiss the death penalty altogether, she should at least rule that the Government's FAA witnesses cannot be allowed to testify at his trial. But, as I said at the beginning, the prosecutors may not be at fault in this one.

Update (3/16): Check out this letter attached to the defense objection to Judge Brinkema reconsidering Tuesday's ruling excluding the aviation witnesses and evidence. It is from the plaintiff's lawyers in the 9/11 civil litigation to the Judge presiding in that case, and raises very similar concerns.

Update: The AP finally reports on the connection. Two days after TalkLeft.

posted by Steve @ 4:58:00 PM

4:58:00 PM

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