Case Coverage: Military Commissions

Al-Darbi Arraignment #1: A Guilty Plea

By Wells Bennett
Thursday, February 20, 2014, 9:30 AM

The image is different on the Fort Meade screen: we see the rarely-used bench, inside Courtroom One at Guantanamo.  (The 9/11 and Al-Nashiri cases, as y’all now, are conducted in Courtroom Two.)  The military judge, Air Force Col. Mark Allred, ascends the bench and calls proceedings to order.  Wearing a lively green tie, Al-Darbi sits at the defense table, in what appears to be quite a packed courtroom.

A prosecutor, Army Lt. Col. Michael Hosang, ticks off some administrative details, mostly about lawyers detailed to the case. Judge Allred follows suit, mentioning the circumstances of his own assignment by the trial judiciary, and inquiring (among other things) about Al-Darbi’s need for a translator; and his representation by a military attorney, Navy Lt. Theresa J. Champ, and a civilian, Professor Ramzi Kassem.  The accused approves of both lawyers; the court also sees no grounds for a challenge to his assignment, nor do any counsel.  We proceed in like fashion--with the military judge marching through procedural checks, without objection or input from lawyers---until we come to the substance.

Hosang summarizes the general nature of the charges against Al-Darbi, including hazarding a vessel and terrorism; Kassem, when asks, opts not to have Al-Darbi read all the charges, in all of their exquisite detail.

So how does Al-Darbi plead?

Guilty, says Kassem, again speaking for Al-Darbi.  So that means a deal--no surprise there.  We’ll hear more about it shortly, after the court advises Al-Darbi of his rights and the consequences of his planned course of action.