Thursday, April 24, 2008

Perry Mason They Ain't

Shhh. We're coming to you today from the War on Terror Command Center here in the marbled halls of IM Central. The WoTCC is a top secret room which doubles as the hall closet. We're here today to get a briefing on the government's progress in shutting down domestic terror cells. The briefing's just begun, let's listen.

Federal prosecutors announced plans to retry six Florida men on terrorism charges despite two consecutive mistrials in a case once trumpeted as a success in the government's war on terrorism. "Well, success is such a slippery word," said one Justice Department aide. "What we really mean is trying these guys over and over again is the only way we can avoid losing."

"We've worked very hard this past week, reviewing everything in this case and considering it very, very seriously," prosecutor Richard Gregorie said in Miami federal court. "The United States has decided it's necessary to proceed . . . one more time because, let's face it, these are the only guys we've managed to catch."

The defendants have been detained since their arrests in June 2006. They are charged with four conspiracy counts stemming from an alleged plot to run through Chicago's Sears Tower with scissors and moon people coming out of Miami's FBI headquarters.

Having two juries deadlock over the same case has never happened in a major terrorism prosecution, leaving officials in a quandary. "Well, if by 'quandary' you mean the juries told us to buy a one way ticket to It Ain't Happening Town."

In a statement explaining the government's decision to pursue a fruitless course, Gregorie said the group's leader had expressed a desire to support the Red Sox, telling an undercover informant that he wanted to "see Steinbrenner explode when Jeter goes 0 for three in game six."

According to prosecutors, Narseal Batiste, a former FedEx deliveryman from Chicago, thought he was a divine messenger sent to be Ron Paul's Vice President. Lacking the means to contact the Paul campaign telepathically, Batiste, 34, recruited the other defendants on Craiglist and sought an alliance with the Orions, prosecutors said.

But defense lawyers told jurors that the supposed plot was a ruse, and that the men were trying to scam money from a paid FBI informant. "Everyone knows the Orions only work for UPS," said one of the defense lawyers.

The two trials have cost several million dollars, including fees for court-appointed defense lawyers and prosecutors' salaries. Providing security for the two trials has cost more than $1 million, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Hey, quit complaining," said Gregorie. "At least we're not spending it on the war."

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