ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Zacarias Moussaoui, the first man indicted in the Sept. 11 attacks, was flown Wednesday from New York to this Washington suburb and briefly appeared in the courthouse where he will be tried.
Sporting a full beard and wearing a brown shirt and khaki pants, Moussaoui stood between his attorneys as the six charges accusing him of conspiring to murder thousands were read by U.S. Magistrate Thomas Jones. Moussaoui did not say a word during the appearance.
"Your honor, on counts one, two, three and four, the maximum penalty is death," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Spencer told the magistrate.
Moussaoui was transported amid tight security from New York, where he had been held since shortly after the Sept. 11 attack, to the U.S. District Courthouse in Alexandria, Va., a short distance from the site where one jetliner crashed into the Pentagon.
About a dozen U.S. marshals were in the courtroom, including two in plainclothes who escorted Moussaoui to a table to join his lawyers for the brief appearance. Some armed marshals, wearing bulletproof vests, guarded the courthouse.
Moussaoui will appear in the same courthouse Jan. 2 to be arraigned on the six charges. At that time, he'll face U.S. District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, who will oversee his trial.
Brinkema, an appointee of former President Clinton, recently presided over a capital murder case of a man accused of killing the main witness against him in a burglary case. A jury convicted the man, but sentenced him to life in prison.
Gerald Zerkin, one of Moussaoui's attorneys, told the court Wednesday that the defense was "not in a position to request bail at this time." Jones ordered Moussaoui held in custody until Jan. 2.
"You are here because an indictment was returned" by a grand jury, the magistrate explained, before reading the charges.
Moussaoui briefly brought his hand up to his chin and leaned on his elbow as the charges were read. He otherwise sat motionless, escorted out of the courtroom by marshals before the magistrate left the bench.
Earlier, a Marshals Service plane flew Moussaoui to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in suburban Virginia from New York, spokesman Dave Turner said.
Moussaoui, 33, is charged with conspiring to commit acts of terrorism, aircraft piracy, destruction of aircraft, use of weapons of mass destruction, murder of U.S. employees and destruction of U.S. property. Four of the charges could result in the death penalty.
Benigno Reyna, director of the Marshals Service, said providing security for Moussaoui will be "unlike any other case. We've handled terrorists before. Now it's having an impact on the sanctity of life itself."
Meanwhile, an Algerian man convicted in a plot to bomb millennium celebrations said under interrogation that he met Moussaoui in a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, a law enforcement official said.
Ahmed Ressam is cooperating with authorities in an effort to reduce a 130-year prison term for helping a convicted terrorist prepare to bomb Los Angeles International Airport around New Year's Eve 1999.
Ressam has told the FBI that he saw Moussaoui at a training camp they both attended a few years ago, the law enforcement official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, is charged with conspiracy to murder thousands in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks.
Ressam, 34, was arrested two years ago in Port Angeles, Wash., with a trunkload of explosives -- apparently intending to bomb the airport, among other targets. He was convicted in April.
Mike Filipovic, Ressam's attorney in Seattle, could not be immediately reached for comment. Jerry Diskin, a government lawyer with the U.S. Attorney's office in Seattle who prosecuted Ressam, declined to comment.
In the indictment against Moussaoui, authorities allege he acted in a similar manner to the hijackers, including getting flight training, inquiring about crop dusting and having connections to the same Hamburg, Germany, terrorist cell frequented by hijacking ringleader Mohamed Atta.
The indictment also linked Moussaoui to Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged member of the German cell who was roommates with Atta. The FBI believes Binalshibh was meant to be the 20th hijacker.
Binalshibh wired $14,000 to Moussaoui in August when Moussaoui was in Oklahoma. A few days later, Moussaoui paid $6,300 in cash for lessons on a 747 flight simulator. He was detained Aug. 17 on immigration charges after he aroused suspicions by saying he wanted training on landings and takeoffs and not on flying. He was in custody Sept. 11.
There was no evidence cited in the indictment establishing a direct connection between Moussaoui and any hijacker.