- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2002

The father of CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann, who was fatally shot in a prison uprising in Afghanistan moments after he questioned John Walker Lindh, wants to testify at the American Taliban's sentencing hearing.

Lindh entered a plea bargain on July 15 and faces a maximum of 20 years in jail an unjust sentence, according to Johnny Spann, the father of the slain CIA agent.

Lindh most likely will be incarcerated in one of two high-security federal prisons near his parents' homes in California.

Tony West, an attorney representing Lindh, said the late Mr. Spann "was a patriot, and we have the greatest sympathy for the Spann family. However, John Walker Lindh had nothing to do with that death."

But the elder Mr. Spann, of Winfield, Ala., sees it otherwise. He has filed papers in court claiming that evidence shows his son's death could have been prevented by Lindh.

Johnny Spann said he never was given an opportunity to weigh in on the plea bargain. During an interview yesterday on "The Early Show" on CBS, he said he had expected Lindh would get at least a life sentence.

"We have executed people in the United States for a lot less than what this man has done," he said.

Mr. West said that is arbitrary, because the government in dropping charges that may have connected Lindh to the younger Mr. Spann has acknowledged "there is no evidence John had any part in [Mr. Spanns] death."

Johnny "Mike" Spann, 32, the first American killed during the war in Afghanistan, was reported to have died Nov. 25 during an uprising at a makeshift prison near Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, where Lindh and other Taliban soldiers were being held by U.S. allies.

Johnny "Mike" Spann is believed to have been gathering intelligence from the captured soldiers when he learned of Lindh's presence and interviewed him moments before the uprising.

Lindh had the chance to "warn my son that the prisoners were armed and about to ambush him," states the elder Mr. Spann's motion filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Lindh, 21, who has denied he had advance knowledge of the uprising, pleaded guilty to contributing services to the Taliban and carrying explosives. Prosecutors dropped accusations he participated in the prison revolt.

Lead prosecutor Paul J. McNulty said justice had been served through an "important victory" in America's battle against terrorism.

A day after the plea bargain was reached, however, Johnny "Mike" Spann's mother, Gail Spann, voiced disappointment. "I don't think it's a victory to American people," she said. "I don't think it's a victory to my son who gave his life."

Lindh is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 4. Where he will serve his prison term has yet to be determined. Under the plea bargain, he asked to be placed near his parents in Marin County, Calif.

"John is not a violent person, and we hope his designation will reflect that," Mr. West said.

Two high-security institutions in California where Lindh could be sent are the 1,025-inmate prison at Atwater, a few hours from Marin County, and the 1,131-inmate prison at Lompoc, several hours south. Atwater is newer, having opened in January.

Where Lindh goes depends on an assessment of his crime, escape risk, propensity toward violence and individual requirements for medical or psychological treatment, Federal Bureau of Prisons officials said.

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