At today’s brief status hearing for Ahmed Abu Khattala, U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper set September 9 as the date for the case’s next status hearing, and ruled to exclude the time until then from computation under the Speedy Trial Act. (The latter prescribes certain time limits for completing the various stages of a federal criminal prosecution.)
Prosecutor Michael DiLorenzo began by noting that his side had begun to produce discovery to the accused’s counsel, and that the case would likely raise many novel factual and legal issues—both because the alleged crime, an act of terrorism, occurred outside the United States, and because much of the case’s voluminous evidence naturally was acquired outside the United States to boot. The prosecutor also informed Judge Cooper of another complexity: although most of the documentary evidence is now located within United States, much of that material is also classified. For these and some other, similar reasons, the prosecutor asked to exclude the time until the next status hearing from computation under the Speedy Trial Act. When asked whether the government intended to seek superseding charges, the prosecutor responded that a number of variables would influence the government’s decision—but that prosecutors indeed might add further charges, perhaps before the next hearing. Before concluding, the prosecutor presented the judge with a proposed order continuing the case.
Defense attorney Michelle Peterson raised no objection to DiLorenzo’s proposal, and simply echoed that a great deal of evidence, classified and unclassified, would need review.
Agreeing that Khattala’s is an unusual and complex case—and consistent with the attorneys’ remarks—Judge Cooper found that the ends of justice outweighed the public’s and Khattala’s interest in a more expeditious trial, and accordingly excluded the time until the September 9 status hearing from statutory computation. Today marked the first time Khattala had appeared before Judge Cooper, who will preside over the remainder of the case.