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The adage may be old, but it still rings true. Charles Redden, 33, was convicted on Oct. 31 of threatening the Oakland, Calif., federal building with a phone call to the clerk’s office there saying he was going to put anthrax in the building’s ventilation system. This was no fast-track prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Redden actually phoned in the threats from the Alameda county jail in 1999. So what lawyer would possibly allow a trial to go forward now that major media and government buildings have been targeted with anthrax-laced letters, in what the president now calls a second wave of terrorist attacks? The kind who has a fool for a client. Charles Redden represented himself. Redden was indicted last year after phoning in the threat in January 1999. He refused court-appointed counsel and decided to try his own case, even though the maximum penalty for making a biological weapons threat is life in prison. The jury deliberated for just two hours. Senior federal Judge D. Lowell Jensen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California appointed Joyce Leavitt, a federal public defender, as advisory counsel. “There was no continuance motion, [but] there was a motion to dismiss” based on Redden’s argument that he couldn’t get a fair trial, Leavitt said. The motion was denied. According to one lawyer familiar with the case, Redden wasn’t the easiest guy in the world to try and help. He twice moved for the public defender to be recused before rescinding the motion. Leavitt wouldn’t divulge conversations between herself and Redden, but she did say Redden intended to bring up the nation’s heightened state of anxiety after the anthrax mailings during voir dire. Instead, Jensen queried potential jurors, she said. “Judge Jensen did ask some questions,” Leavitt said. “There were some jurors who said they couldn’t be impartial and were dismissed for cause.” Following a three-day trial, the jury convicted Redden in short order. He will be sentenced by Jensen on Jan. 18.

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