MIAMI – Attorneys for Jose Padilla told the court they will not put on a defense case, meaning the jury could soon be deciding the fate of the former "enemy combatant" and two co-defendants charged with supporting Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists.
"At this point, we're not calling any witnesses," Padilla attorney Anthony Natale told U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke on Tuesday.
Cooke recently rejected the lawyers' request to acquit Padilla based on lack of government evidence.
Only a handful of witnesses remain for Padilla's co-defendants, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi. Jayyousi attorney William Swor indicated he could finish with his witnesses as early as Thursday, meaning prosecutors could put on brief rebuttal testimony next week. Closing statements are expected to take about two days, then the case goes to the jury.
Hassoun's and Jayyousi's attorneys have struggled at times to refute the prosecution's claims that the two provided recruits, money and supplies for Islamic extremist causes around the world.
They have called six witnesses since July 23, with none producing major bombshell evidence. One, FBI agent John T. Kavanaugh, had already spent three weeks on the stand for the prosecution and seemed to rehash the same FBI wiretap intercepts that form the backbone of the U.S. case.
Padilla is accused of being one of the cell's recruits and completing a form in 2000 to attend an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. He initially was accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" inside the United States and was held as an enemy combatant for 3 1/2 years, but the "dirty bomb" allegation is not part of the Miami trial.
All three men face life in prison if convicted on all charges.
The trial had dragged on for 12 weeks, with the jury spending almost as much time out the courtroom as in the jury box. The jurors often have been sent out of the room or dismissed early as prosecutors and defense lawyers battle intently over evidence admissibility and the way witnesses are questioned.
One such argument grew so heated late Monday that Cooke ordered a recess, prompting an apology Tuesday from Swor.
"I was, I would say, close to being totally out of control," he said. "I would like to apologize to the court."
Cooke then made Swor say he was sorry to prosecutor John Shipley, the object of his ire, "to complete your atonement process."
"I do apologize to Mr. Shipley. It was unprofessional," Swor said.