A federal judge refused to dismiss the terrorism support charges against alleged al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla on Friday, rejecting defense claims that his 3½ years in custody as an enemy combatant violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke agreed with prosecutors that Padilla’s years in isolation at a Navy brig did not count because he had not yet been charged.
The criminal charges came when Padilla was added to an existing Miami terrorism support indictment in November 2005. Only then did the clock start for the Sixth Amendment’s right to a “speedy and public trial,” Cooke said.
“I agree that the law in this case is that a criminal trial proceeding begins with the filing of the criminal process,” Cooke said. “Mr. Padilla has been promptly brought to court in that matter.”
A federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., previously ruled that Padilla’s detention as an enemy combatant without criminal charge was legal.
Orlando do Campo, one of Padilla’s four court-appointed lawyers, insisted that the lengthy imprisonment gave prosecutors an unfair advantage in building their case, including incriminating statements Padilla made during months of interrogation.
“No one has ever been treated the way Mr. Padilla has been treated,” do Campo said.
Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen, is charged along with Adham Amin Hassoun, 44, and 45-year-old Kifah Wael Jayyousi with being part of a North American cell that supported Islamic extremist causes around the world. Prosecutors say Padilla was a recruit and filled out a form in 2000 to attend an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan.
Padilla was declared an enemy combatant by President Bush shortly after his arrest at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in May 2002 on what U.S. authorities then claimed was a mission to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in a major U.S. city. That allegation is not part of the Miami criminal indictment.
The dismissal motion was one of eight that Cooke was considering at an all-day hearing Friday as the case nears an April 16 trial date.
Cooke also was expected to rule on a defense motion seeking to prevent prosecutors from using words such as “terrorist” or “violent jihad” during the trial, or mentioning Osama bin Laden by name.
Although she ruled for the government, Cooke was clearly troubled by Padilla’s long incarceration without charge, which was the subject of a previous legal battle over the extent of the president’s wartime detention powers.
Prosecutor Brian Frazier said none of Padilla’s interrogation statements would be used as main government evidence at trial and that most of the information the U.S. government had about Padilla didn’t get to the prosecution team until April 2006 — several months after his addition to the Miami indictment.
Padilla’s time as an enemy combatant “is legally distinct and independent from the criminal detention,” Frazier said.
Cooke agreed that Padilla’s interrogation statements were off-limits as prosecution evidence, but she put off ruling whether any of them could be introduced to refute or counter testimony during the trial. The statements are considered inadmissible because Padilla did not have a lawyer present and was not read his Miranda rights.