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The federal judge chosen to oversee the most significant prosecution to arise so far from the September attacks has relatively little experience with the complicated national security questions the case is expected to raise. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema will preside Jan. 2, when Zacarias Moussaoui is arraigned as a suspected accomplice in the terrorist hijackings. Although Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, had been in jail for a month on Sept. 11, prosecutors contend that he helped to plan the operation. Four of the charges against Moussaoui could carry the death penalty. Among then-President Clinton’s early choices for the federal trial bench in 1993, Brinkema is known as efficient, sensible and thoughtful, lawyers who have had trials in her Alexandria, Va., courtroom say. “She’s a very good choice for this. She’ll move things along, but she will give both sides a very fair hearing,” said James Clark, an Alexandria defense lawyer who has appeared before Brinkema many times and worked opposite her when she was a federal prosecutor. “Sometimes you can sense that judges have at least an inclination toward the government or the defense,” Clark said, “but I think Judge Brinkema has a reputation for being fair and just, calling it as she sees it.” Brinkema has had a great deal of experience with criminal cases in general, including some that involved the death penalty. But she has had only one large espionage case in a courthouse where more than a dozen spies, including Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, have been prosecuted since she joined the bench. In that 1997 case, Brinkema sentenced a former Navy computer specialist to nine years in prison for passing classified materials to officials in his native South Korea. Robert Kim “violated his oath of citizenship,” Brinkema said as she also banned him from accepting any computer specialist job with a foreign government during a three-year probation period after his prison term. Kim’s lawyer complained that the sentence was too harsh, since Kim had not harmed U.S. security. The lawyer for the only survivor of a four-car crash that helped make road rage a national concern said Brinkema was too tough on his client. Narkey Terry was sentenced to 10 years for his role as one of two drivers who crashed after racing through rush-hour traffic for seven miles. The 1996 crash killed three people. “I want to make sure you get the message,” Brinkema told Terry. “You can’t use the roadway or your car in any way to vent aggression.” This fall, she presided over a bizarre trial in which a man represented himself on charges he kidnapped and killed a witness in a separate burglary case. The man was convicted, but the jury did not impose a death sentence as prosecutors requested. “She’s an experienced, evenhanded, no-nonsense judge who knows how to keep a trial moving, without preventing the lawyers from putting on their case,” said Mark Hulkower, who has appeared in Brinkema’s courtroom as both a federal prosecutor and a defense attorney. Brinkema listens carefully and chooses her words even more carefully, lawyers said. Lawyers say at least one more senior judge in the same courthouse wanted the Moussaoui case, and Chief Judge Claude Hilton could have decided to hear the case himself. “It’s really a compliment to her, and I think it’s great that this case will have a woman judge,” said defense lawyer Nancy Luque, who praised Brinkema’s attention to detail during a complicated sentencing hearing for a Luque client. “This is a woman who will show this gentleman and the members of his culture and his religious faith that she’s more than up to the task.” Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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