- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

In yet another sign that Howell Raines and the New York Times are up to their old tricks taking editorials and billing them as news stories the newspaper weighed in with a whopper of a front-page piece last week, suggesting that Justice Department officials sabotaged sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad's imminent confession in Montgomery County.
According to the New York Times, Mr. Muhammad was just about to provide investigators with critical information when the misguided feds, possibly on orders from the White House and the Justice Department, whisked him to Baltimore for arraignment on federal weapons charges. The lead paragraph of the New York Times story quoted unnamed "state and federal investigators" as saying that Mr. Muhammad "had been talking to them for more than an hour on the day of his arrest in the sniper shootings, explaining the roots of his anger, when the United States attorney for Maryland told them to deliver him to Baltimore to face federal weapons charges…forcing them to end their interrogation."
The U.S. attorney for Maryland, Thomas DiBiagio, said the New York Times version of events is bunk. According to Mr. DiBiagio, the feds terminated the interrogation of Mr. Muhammad after Maryland Assistant States Attorney John McCarthy called to say that the suspect had invoked his right to counsel. "At that point, the questioning had to cease, and the suspects had to be presented to a federal magistrate judge," Mr. DiBiagio noted.
But the phony issue of federal heavy-handedness against the state of Maryland raised by the paper has nothing to do with the actual handling of the sniper case and everything to do with raw politics. The New York Times opposes capital punishment, approves of the fact that Maryland has a death-penalty moratorium and disapproves of the reality that most of the other states where Mr. Muhammad and his alleged accomplice, John Lee Malvo, are accused of killing people have functioning death-penalty laws. For example, in Virginia, where three sniper victims were slain, the death-penalty statute permits the execution of persons as young as 16, meaning that Mr. Malvo would be eligible.
Federal officials have made little secret of their belief that the public interest, which includes giving juries the opportunity to impose the death penalty in the sniper case, would be poorly served by giving Maryland the lead prosecutorial role. They're absolutely right. Given the existence of several alternative venues for prosecution, federal officials are absolutely correct to oppose giving Maryland primary responsibility for handling the sniper case.

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