U.S. Gov't to Re-Try Suspects in So-Called Sears Tower Plot. Again.
Last week, a Florida judge declared a mistrial in the case of six men accused of a terrorist plot to blow up the Sears Tower. The federal jury could not decide whether Patrick Abraham, Burson Augustine, Rothschild Augustine, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera and Narseal Batiste (their seemingly delusional leader, who, among other quirks, had a reputation for wandering the streets in a bathrobe), were, as prosecutors claimed, engaged in a coordinated plot to wage a "ground war" on American soil.
It is not the first time this has happened. Last week marked the second time that the feds have tried and failed to convince a jury that the defendants are would-be terrorists guilty of, well, something. Which is pretty embarrassing if you're the White House or the Department of Justice. As the Washington Post reports, the Bush administration "had touted the case as an example of the government's ability to prevent terrorist attacks."
But from the start, the government's case against the men -- all but one of whom are in their 20s and previously known as the "Liberty City Seven" (one man has been found innocent) -- seemed a bit ... hasty. MSNBC reported in October:
FBI audio and video recordings show that the so-called "Liberty City Seven" hoped to use street gangs as soldiers who would stage attacks, ranging from large-scale bombings of major buildings to poisoning salt shakers in restaurants, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Gregorie said.Despite their wild claims of domestic destruction, the men did not get very far. As David Cole pointed out last fall, the defendant's so-called terrorist plot did not seem to stretch beyond ordering combat boots. Also: "Their only Al Qaeda 'connection' was to a federal informant pretending to be Al Qaeda."
So, after two high-profile prosecutorial failures, now might be a good time for the government to cut its losses and turn its attention to other cases in the ongoing "war on terror." Right?
As it turns out, when it comes to pre-emptive terror prosecutions based on dubious evidence, the Bush administration believes the third time's the charm. Yesterday the DoJ announced: "The United States has decided it's necessary to proceed Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ one more time."
It's an unprecedented situation. "Having two juries deadlocked over the same case has never happened in a major terrorism prosecution," reports the LA Times.
The two trials have cost several million dollars, including fees for court-appointed defense lawyers and prosecutors' salaries. Providing security for the two trials has cost more than $1 million, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
"Enough is enough," said defense lawyer David O. Markus. "The feds are always saying that they don't have enough resources, so why are they clinging to this money-draining case?"Good question. Looks like we'll find out later this year. In the meantime, no reason to be surprised. Turning politically-driven missions into costly failures is what the Bush administration does best.