ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Prosecutors revealed Tuesday that a telephone number found at a crash site linked terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui to a Sept. 11 attacker, a disclosure that ranged beyond the indirect allegations in an indictment.
Moussaoui had called a number found scrawled on a business card that belonged to Ziad Jarrah, a hijacker on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, Pa., after passengers fought with hijackers, the government said.
In a written pleading, prosecutors disclosed the evidence in an effort to overcome a judge's reluctance to admission of cockpit recordings as evidence in Moussaoui's Jan. 6 trial.
The judge, Leonie Brinkema, said this month she agreed with a defense argument that the recordings could unfairly prejudice a jury. She deferred a ruling to give prosecutors time to demonstrate the "relevance of these recordings to any issue in dispute, and why any ... value outweighs the danger of unfair prejudice."
Until now, the government contended it would use the recordings -- along with pictures and videotapes -- to tell jurors the human side of the Sept. 11 attacks instead of merely citing statistics.
In the latest filing, prosecutors said the tapes were needed to establish that Jarrah and three other hijackers were on Flight 93, that they were Islamic extremists and that the phone number connected Jarrah and Moussaoui.
"Jarrah's role as a hijacker on Flight 93 is important to the government's evidence linking defendant to the conspiracy, because a telephone number that defendant called during the conspiracy was scrawled on a business card belonging to Jarrah, which was found at the crash site in Pennsylvania," the motion said.
"In the end, the (cockpit voice recordings) constitute ... evidence that directly substantiates the overt acts charged in the indictment, thus tipping the scale heavily in favor of admissibility."
The indictment accuses Moussaoui of conspiring with the 19 hijackers to commit terrorism, but gives no indication of any direct contacts between him and the attackers. According to the indictment, Moussaoui's conduct mirrored that of the hijackers, including enrollment in U.S. flight schools.
The indictment does allege that Ramzi Binalshibh, a suspected planner of attacks who now is in custody, wired money to Moussaoui under the fictitious name of Ahad Sabet. Moussaoui, an acknowledged Al Qaeda loyalist who denies a role in the hijackings, contends Sabet and Binalshibh are not the same individual.
Moussaoui, 34, was incarcerated nearly a month before the attacks for overstaying his visa. Employees at a Minneapolis flight school alerted the FBI about Moussaoui after they became suspicious of his poor flying skills.
Normally tapes from the cockpit recorder, which record the final 30 minutes before a crash, are not played in public, although transcripts are usually released by investigators.
The government said a federal law would prohibit use of the tapes outside the courtroom, a position that has been challenged by the publisher of USA Today.