- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lawyer who provided trial transcripts to and briefed potential witnesses in the death penalty trial of al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui — putting the government’s case in jeopardy — yesterday was placed on paid administrative leave, the agency said.

Carla J. Martin, whom prosecutors described as having only a limited role in the Moussaoui case as an “outside counsel,” has been threatened with criminal or civil contempt citations by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, who described the attorney’s actions in the case as “egregious.” Ms. Martin, 51, faces possible fines, disbarment or jail time if found in contempt.

“In this sea of government attorneys and agents who have assiduously played by the rules, Ms. Martin stands as the lone miscreant,” prosecutors said in papers filed this week. “Her aberrant and apparently criminal behavior should not be the basis for undoing the good work of so many.”

Ms. Martin, a $120,000-a-year attorney-adviser at TSA, is accused of violating orders by Judge Brinkema by sending trial transcripts to seven Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials who were scheduled to testify in the case. Judge Brinkema said Ms. Martin also coached the witnesses on how to respond to questions and lied when she told defense attorneys the witnesses did not want to be interviewed.

Moussaoui, 37, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, admitted being a member of the al Qaeda terrorist network and pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy charges in the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. He is on trial to determine whether he should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole or receive a lethal injection.

Ms. Martin’s actions angered Judge Brinkema, who barred the testimony of the aviation specialists, which was at the heart of the government’s case. Prosecutors had been expected to show that, had Moussaoui not lied to the FBI after his August 2001 arrest on immigration charges, efforts could have been made to stop the September 11 carnage.

Judge Brinkema first threatened to remove the death penalty as an option after learning of Ms. Martin’s actions, but later reconsidered. But she blocked the testimony of the aviation specialists.

In an appeal to the judge to reconsider her ruling, prosecutors said “scores of government agents and attorneys” worked on the case for more than four years, interviewing 160,000 people and assembling more than a million documents and Ms. Martin’s “aberrant and apparently criminal behavior should not be the basis for undoing the good work of so many.”

“The court’s sanction is grossly punitive, penalizing the government beyond what is necessary to ensure that the defendant receives a fair trial,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert A. Spencer, David J. Novak and David Raskin, the prosecution team. “What is more, the penalty is misplaced. Punitive measures, to the extent necessary, should be Ms. Martin’s problem.”

Trial is scheduled to resume Monday.

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