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Prosecutors don't have video of jail stabbing

hallway
Hallway where federal corrections officer Louis Pepe was stabbed in the eye.  


NEW YORK (CNN) -- When federal corrections officer Louis Pepe was stabbed in the eye inside the maximum security wing of Manhattan's federal jail last November, the video cameras were on, as they are 24-hours a day, the monitor screens working.

But when FBI agents investigated the attack, which allegedly came at the hands of terrorist conspirators, what could have been powerful evidence did not exist.

There was no videotape showing the hallways and cells at the time of the attack, a federal jury heard on Thursday, as the Pepe stabbing was recounted for a second day. Government prosecutors are offering the incident as proof of the future probable danger from Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, the convicted Tanzania embassy bomber who faces the death penalty.

If the jury of seven women and five men cannot vote unanimously to impose a death sentence, then Mohamed will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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Mohamed shared a jail cell at the time of the November 1 attack with inmate Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, who is charged with attempted murder for the stabbing. He also faces charges connected to a botched hostage-taking and escape scheme. Mohamed, prosecutors say, was his accomplice.

Jail officials from the Metropolitan Correctional Center provided FBI agents videotape from their internal security cameras.

"It didn't show the time we were investigating," testified agent David Stone.

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One tape ran from 11 p.m. the night before the alleged attack only to 1 a.m. the day of the stabbing, which occurred around 10:30 a.m. A second tape recorded activity on a different floor.

"They said they gave us all the tapes they had," Stone said.

There were no eyewitnesses to the attack, except Pepe, who lost his left eye and suffered brain damage after the sharpened comb was lodged three inches inside his head. Pepe, 43, a Bureau of Prisons guard for 13 years, remains hospitalized and is too disabled to testify.

The comb-turned-weapon was purchased in the jail commissary, according to prosecution evidence. FBI agent Joel Foelsch told the jury that agents found commissary receipts inside the inmates' cell indicating that Salim had purchased two combs and a brush and that Mohamed had purchased two brushes since the beginning of their incarceration.

The government alleges Salim also stabbed one of the officers responding to the Pepe attack with a brush sharpened into a shank.

Agents found six handwritten scraps of paper inside the Mohamed-Salim cell, but no agents could recall the notes' exact locations -- for example, under which bed they were found. The only fingerprints and palm prints detected on the notes belonged to Salim, said FBI fingerprint analyst Charles Kubilus.

"We are the Muslims who were falsly (sic) accused of bombing the embassy in Africa," says one of the notes in English. "We have captured the tenth flr. in MCC and we have several lawyers and officials."

The attack occurred after Salim had been meeting with his attorneys.

"If the government worrys (sic) about the safty (sic) of its citizines (sic) it has to comply with all our demands," the note continued.

A note in Arabic that reads like a checklist referred to "the guard," "handling and identifying the keys," "luring the hunt and opening the door for him."

Wednesday, jail guards coming to Pepe's rescue testified they scuffled with Mohamed, who they said lunged at them and squirted hot sauce at them.

Both Salim, 43, and Mohamed, 27, are linked to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, the alleged leader of an international conspiracy to kill Americans and destroy U.S. property that included the August 7, 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people, including 12 Americans, and wounding thousands.

Salim, a high-ranking bin Laden associate charged in the terrorist conspiracy, will face trial in September for the jail stabbing.

Mohamed was convicted May 29 of participating in the conspiracy, carrying out the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania bombing and murdering the 11 people who died in it.

The same jury rejected the death penalty for convicted Kenya embassy bomber Mohamed al-'Owhali June 12.


Greta@LAW





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