Hijacked U.S. Ship's First Mate Returns Home, Says He Survived by Thinking of His Family

The first mate of the U.S.-flagged ship hijacked by Somali pirates earlier this month says he made it through the ordeal by thinking of his friends and family in Massachusetts.

Shane Murphy returned home Thursday.

The 33-year-old Murphy says he was inspired by the strength of the Maersk Alabama's crew and the bravery of Capt. Richard Phillips, who was held hostage in a lifeboat for five days and was freed when U.S. Navy snipers killed three of his captors.

Murphy says he'll attend a baseball game on Sunday before heading to Washington to testify against the surviving pirate held by the U.S. government.

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The surviving accused pirate, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse, was charged this week with piracy and faces life in prison.

He is the first alleged pirate charged in the United States in more than a century.

Prosecutors say Muse was not shy about making his presence known on the Maersk Alabama, brazenly tearing through the ship in a way that belied his young age and skinny, 5-foot-2 frame.

He was the first to board the ship, he fired a shot at the captain, he helped steal $30,000 in cash from a safe, and he bragged about hijacking ships in the past, authorities said.

His defense lawyers portrayed Muse as a frightened kid and not the violent pirate depicted by prosecutors.

They believe he is 15 years old and should be given greater protections under international law because of his age and the circumstances of his situation, and predicted he would be exonerated.

"As you can tell, he's extremely young, injured and terrified," lawyer Deirdre von Dornum said.

Prosecutors say he is 18.

Muse's age was called into question by differing accounts, but the judge who heard arguments about the issue ruled Tuesday that he can be tried as an adult.

Muse was charged with several counts, including piracy under the law of nations. That charge carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison.

The decision by the federal government to bring Muse to justice here has thrust him into international spotlight and has raised legal questions about whether the U.S. is going too far in trying to make an example of someone so young.

Muse appeared in court as investigators released new details of the incident in a criminal complaint against the defendant, the oldest of 12 children and the son of parents who scraped together a few dollars a day in Somalia selling milk and tending to a small herd of camels, cows and goats.

The complaint by FBI agent Steven E. Sorrells provided dramatic new details about the seizure of the ship and what transpired before three pirates were shot by U.S. snipers and Muse was captured.