Sept. 11 might not be the best day for a terrorism suspect to face a jury of his peers.
So when a judge granted a motion by Sami Osmakac’s defense to move his trial from May to September, the defense balked at the new date: Sept. 9.
“Upon receiving the notice it instantly came to the defendant’s attention as well as the below named attorney that this matter would be in trial on September 11, 2013,” lawyer George Tragos wrote in a court filing. “Any trial date around September 11 or including September 11, 2013 is a cause for concern.”
Osmakac, a naturalized citizen from Kosovo, was arrested last year on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered machine gun after an undercover sting by the FBI. Authorities said he planned to attack a busy Tampa night spot, then take hostages and demand the release of Muslim prisoners.
After U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven notified the parties of the new trial date, Tragos filed a motion asking for another change.
“During the course of this trial,” he wrote, “the September 11 tragedy could be presented to the jury through transcripts, testimony, etc. Because of the nature of this case, September 11 is a highly inflammatory date, which could cause concern for the jurors as well as the defense.
“The possibility for repeat violence on any September 11th is always reported in the press. Because the tragedy of September 11th affected all Americans, it is easy to speculate that jurors have feelings that would be particularly sensitive on or around that date.”
Tragos said there probably wouldn’t have been a problem if the trial had been scheduled to start the week before or the week after Sept. 11. But now, he and his client think it’s best if the case is rescheduled to October, skipping September altogether.
“I just think the concern is it’s just a bad time for this kind of case to be in trial,” Tragos said.