Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Lawyers Say Coaching to Aid 9/11 Airlines
AP on Yahoo ^ | 3/17/06 | Michael J. Sniffin and Leslie Miller - ap

Posted on 03/17/2006 11:22:12 AM PST by NormsRevenge

WASHINGTON - Lawyers for two airlines being sued by 9/11 victims prompted a federal attorney to coach witnesses in the Zacarias Moussaoui death penalty trial so the government's case against the al-Qaida conspirator would not undercut their defense, victims' lawyers allege.

A United Airlines lawyer received a transcript of the first day of the Moussaoui trial from an American Airlines lawyer and forwarded it to Carla J. Martin, a Transportation Security Administration lawyer, the victims' lawyers, Robert Clifford and Gregory Joseph, claim.

Martin forwarded that day's transcript to seven federal aviation officials scheduled to testify later in the sentencing trial of the 37-year-old Frenchman, in violation of an order by Moussaoui trial judge Leonie Brinkema.

Martin's e-mailing of the transcript and her efforts to shape their testimony prompted Brinkema to toss out half the government's case against Moussaoui as contaminated beyond repair.

American Airlines attorneys denied on Friday that the government position in the Moussaoui case would have undercut their defense in the civil suit and said that none of their attorneys had any direct contact with Martin about the Moussaoui trial.

The contacts between Martin and airline lawyers were detailed in a legal brief filed on Moussaoui's behalf Thursday. That brief contained a March 15 letter from Clifford and Joseph complaining about Martin's actions to U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who is presiding over the civil damage case in New York.

They wrote Hellerstein that the government's opening statement in the Moussaoui case "took the position that the hijackings were completely preventable and that gate security measures could have been implemented to prevent the 9/11 hijackers from boarding the planes had security been on the look out for short-bladed knives and boxcutters."

"This stands in stark contrast to the position that has been repeatedly articulated by counsel to the aviation defendants in the September 11 actions."

Because that government position could have a "devastating" impact on the airlines' defense in the civil suit, American Airlines' lawyer forwarded the transcript to a United Air Lines lawyer who forwarded it to Martin, Clifford and Joseph wrote. As proof, they cited March 7 e-mails that they provided to Hellerstein but which were not immediately available here.

"The TSA lawyer then forwarded the transcripts and sent multiple e-mails to government witnesses in a clear effort to shape their testimony in a manner that would be beneficial to the aviation defendants" in the civil suit, they wrote.

They then quoted a March 8 e-mail Martin sent to one of the government's Moussaoui witnesses that said:

"My friends Jeff Ellis and Chris Christenson, NY lawyers rep. UAL and AAL respectively in the 9/11 civil litigation ... all of us aviation lawyers, were stunned by the opening. The opening has created a credibility gap that the defense can drive a truck through. There is no way anyone could say that the carriers could have prevented all short-bladed knives from going through — (Prosecutor) Dave (Novak) MUST elicit that from you and the airline witnesses on direct...."

Clifford and Joseph said the developments represent "far more than appearance of impropriety" and asked Hellerstein to investigate "the mutual back-scratching relationship that appears to exist between the (airline) defendants and the TSA."

Asked about the allegations by Clifford and Joseph, United spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said, "Our actions have been entirely appropriate as have those of our outside counsel."

In a letter dated Thursday to Hellerstein, American Airlines' attorneys Desmond Barry and Roger Podesta wrote that the "assertion that a government admission of devastating significance to the defense of this case has somehow been made in the Moussaoui trial is just plain wrong."

They said the airlines have always maintained that their actions on 9/11 should be measured against whatever security standard federal aviation authorities imposed. They said the government position in the Moussaoui trial — that security standards would have been tightened if Moussaoui had not lied about his terrorist connections when arrested in August, 2001 — is irrelevant to their defense because the standards they were supposed to meet were not changed.

They added, "There have been no communications between any counsel for American Airlines and Carla Martin or anyone else at the TSA regarding the Moussaoui trial." And they said Christensen specifically had no communications with her at all "in approximately one year." They noted Martin had misspelled Christensen's name as Christenson.

Martin's attorney, Roscoe Howard, said Friday he had just become aware of the New York lawsuit and the letter from Clifford and Joseph and wanted to discuss it with Martin before commenting.

TSA spokeswoman Yolanda Clark said she was unfamiliar with the allegations made by Clifford and Joseph.

Earlier Thursday, Clark confirmed that TSA had put Martin on administrative leave.

In court on Tuesday, Brinkema said Martin violated federal witness rules when she sent trial transcripts to seven aviation witnesses, coached them on how to deflect defense attacks and lied to defense lawyers to prevent them from interviewing witnesses they wanted to call.

Brinkema warned her that she could face civil or criminal charges and that she appeared to have violated rules of legal ethics.

Martin was assigned to be a government lawyer for the aviation witnesses called by both sides and to be a liaison between prosecutors and defense attorneys. Beyond that, she co-signed one government brief submitted in the case, attended closed hearings on classified documents and worked closely with prosecutors on preparing their exhibits.

Efforts to reach her for comment were unsuccessful, but her lawyer said she was preparing a response.


On the Net:

Transportation Security Administration:

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Government; War on Terror

1 posted on 03/17/2006 11:22:15 AM PST by NormsRevenge
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: NormsRevenge

Carla J. Martin of the Transportation Security Administration, leaves federal court in Alexandria, Va., in this, March 14, 2006 file photo. Martin, accused by a judge of coaching witnesses in the death penalty case of Zacarias Moussaoui was placed on paid administrative leave from her job Thursday, March 16 as the trial remained in recess. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, Files)

2 posted on 03/17/2006 11:23:06 AM PST by NormsRevenge (Semper Fi ... Monthly Donor spoken Here. Go to ...
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NormsRevenge

Damn! This case is gettin' really messed-up! The military shoulda handled it.

3 posted on 03/17/2006 11:45:55 AM PST by Dr. Bogus Pachysandra ("Don't touch that thing")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson