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Shoe bomber denies role in 9/11 attacks

Statement contradicts Moussaoui testimony

By Phil Hirschkorn



September 11 attacks
Al Qaeda
Zacarias Moussaoui

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- Shoe bomber Richard Reid denies a central part of al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui's testimony -- that the pair intended to hijack a passenger jet together and fly it into the White House during the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The denial came as testimony ended in the seven-week trial. Closing arguments are set to begin Monday.

To date, Moussaoui is the only person tried in the United States in connection with the September 11 attacks. The 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy charges a year ago.

Jurors, who already have held Moussaoui responsible for at least some of the nearly 3,000 deaths that day, must decide whether he should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Jurors heard Reid's denial Thursday through a written statement substituted for his live testimony at Moussaoui's sentencing trial.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to the statement, known as a stipulation. Lawyers hammered out the wording in closed-door hearings after U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema withdrew a defense subpoena for Reid.

Reid said he was not aware of al Qaeda's plot. He also said the terror group never asked him to work with Moussaoui.

"To date, there is no information available to indicate that Richard Reid had pre-knowledge of the September 11 attacks or was instructed by al Qaeda leadership to conduct an operation in coordination with Moussaoui," the statement said.

Reid was not in the United States in the spring and summer of 2001, the statement said.

At that time, Moussaoui was seeking flight training, and 19 other al Qaeda operatives in the United States lived together as crews, making final preparations to hijack four planes and aim them at landmarks in New York and Washington.

Neither Moussaoui nor Reid was in contact with the hijackers, according to the statement. Thus, the jury was told, according to two FBI analysts, "it is highly unlikely that Reid was part of this operation."

Defense rests

Moussaoui has called Reid "my buddy" in his testimony. During two stints on the witness stand, Moussaoui claimed he was training to pilot a Boeing 747 into the White House.

Reid, a friend from a London mosque and an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan, would have been part of his hijacking crew, Moussaoui testified.

Defense attorneys said Moussaoui made up the story and sought Reid's testimony to refute it.

In December 2001, Reid attempted to detonate explosives hidden in his sneakers on a flight from Paris, France, to Miami, Florida. Passengers thwarted his plan, and the plane landed safely in Boston, Massachusetts.

He pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in October 2002 and is serving a life sentence at the nation's super-maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.

The day before he went on his solo mission, Reid wrote a letter to his mother bequeathing his belongings to Moussaoui, casting further doubt that they intended to die together in a "martyrdom operation," according to FBI analysts.

Defense attorneys also used an old e-mail written the day before Reid's failed attempt to bomb the Miami-bound plane. The e-mail described a dream in which Reid was waiting for a ride and saw a pickup truck, which was full, pass him by.

Reid said he believed the dream represented his disappointment for being left out of the September 11 plot.

Mental illness disputed

Prosecutors called psychiatrist Raymond Patterson, who has spent more time alone with Moussaoui than any other mental health professional, in an attempt to rebut testimony from mental health experts who said Wednesday that Moussaoui is a paranoid schizophrenic (Full story).

"My opinion is that Mr. Moussaoui does not suffer from schizophrenia, and he has never suffered from schizophrenia," he told the jury.

Patterson said Moussaoui's dream that President Bush might release him is based on his Muslim faith, adding, "I don't believe as a psychiatrist I can declare his faith is delusional."

Patterson also disagreed with the notion that schizophrenia, which inhibits the ability to multitask, explained why Moussaoui failed flight school. He cited Moussaoui's training in al Qaeda camps to build explosives as evidence to the contrary.

"I think that may require considerable executive function to make sure you don't blow yourself up," Patterson said.

Families testify for defense

Earlier Thursday, seven more relatives of people killed in the attacks testified for Moussaoui's defense.

Like the half-dozen family members of victims who testified for the defense Wednesday, they said they were not speaking out of anger or a need for vengeance.

Their testimony came in muted contrast to the heart-wrenching stories of the families who testified for the government. They were not permitted to tell the jury whether they thought Moussaoui should be executed or not. None even mentioned his name in court.

Instead, they spoke of coping with loss and of honoring the memory of loved ones through scholarships and good deeds.

"I would like to be a voice for reconciliation in the world," said Alice Hoagland, mother of Mark Bingham, who was among the passengers who attempted to take back United Airlines Flight 93's cockpit from the hijackers. She said it took a while for his death "to sink in."

"I tend to still speak of my son in the present tense. It's hard," she said. Since his death, the former flight attendant said she has become an advocate for improved airline security and has sought to understand radical Islam.

Jennifer Glick's brother, Jeremy, a national collegiate judo champion, was also among the leaders of the Flight 93 passenger uprising. Glick said her family has started a not-for-profit foundation that helps children participate in sports and perform community service after school.

"Children are the easiest way to change our future," she said. "I would like us to remember the goodness he showed we all have inside us."

Andrea LeBlanc's husband, Robert, a geography professor, was aboard United Flight 175, the second plane to crash into the World Trade Center. She told the jury she thought her family was "really weird" compared with others who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks.

"We don't dwell on 9/11," she said.

She described her husband's death as "the silent elephant" in the room when she and their five children get together. "There won't be tears, there won't be anger, there'll be lots of stories about Bob," she said.

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