ALEXANDRIA, Va. – For the second time, a judge postponed the trial of terrorist suspect Zacarias Moussaoui, agreeing with prosecutors and the accused that the alleged Sept. 11 accomplice needs more time to prepare for a case that could cost him his life.
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said Monday that the trial would begin June 30, instead of next January.
The trial originally was to have begun Monday, but the judge previously extended it because the defense wasn't ready. Defense attorneys also had argued it was too soon after the one-year anniversary of the attacks in New York and Washington. Jury selection now begins next May.
Moussaoui is accused of conspiring with 19 members of suicide teams to commit terrorism, hijack aircraft and kill more than 3,000 people in four hijacked jetliners, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The government has said it would seek Moussaoui's execution if the 34-year-old French citizen is convicted of capital charges. Four of the six conspiracy counts against him carry the death penalty.
Meanwhile, prosecutors provided additional details learned from a charred business card found at a Sept. 11, 2001 crash site in Shanksville, Pa. The government said the card was in the name of hijacker Ziad Jarrah's uncle, and asserted that the card linked Moussaoui to Jarrah.
The government said the card contained a handwritten address in Germany that was connected to a telephone number belonging to Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged organizer of the Sept. 11 attacks. Prosecutors said Moussaoui also had called the phone number at that address.
The indictment of Moussaoui alleges that Binalshibh wired money to the defendant, using an alias.
The government disclosed the information in an attempt to convince the judge to permit playing of cockpit recordings that would establish that Jarrah was on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed at Shanksville after passengers fought with the hijackers. Prosecutors said a witness would identify Jarrah's voice from the tape.
Moussaoui is representing himself, although a team of experienced court-appointed lawyers are assisting him even though he often insults the attorneys in his handwritten motions.
Brinkema said prosecutors, Moussaoui and the defense team agreed on the compelling argument that the need for a fair trial outweighs the interests of the public and defendant to a speedy trial.
"In particular, the pleadings establish that a failure to grant a continuance could result in a miscarriage of justice and would not allow the parties a sufficient opportunity to adequately prepare for trial," Brinkema said.
The judge also granted a motion by the defense team to give Moussaoui a larger cell in the Alexandria Detention Center, where he is in solitary confinement an unable to contact the outside world.
"In light of the lengthy delay of the trial date, we find the defendant's continued pretrial confinement to a small, windowless cell to be both inhumane and an unreasonable barrier to his ability to work with the materials produced to him," Brinkema said.
"Accordingly, the defendant's 'Motion to Get a Bigger Cave' is granted."
Moussaoui has acknowledged he's loyal to Usama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist network but has denied involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Before the judge issued the order, the court-appointed lawyers argued in a motion that Moussaoui should learn the names of potential government witnesses 60 days prior to his trial.
Since Moussaoui has been inundated with thousands of pages of government documents, he would be unfairly disadvantaged if he were to receive the names only three days in advance of his trial as federal law provides, the lawyers said.
The motion also sought a 60-day advance notice for a summary of opinions by possible expert witnesses the government may call and the basis for their findings.
The motion cited several rulings that allowed defendants to receive government witness lists well in advance of trial.
Providing the list to Moussaoui would not endanger the witnesses since a court rule prohibits publicly releasing names before a witness testifies, the lawyers said.