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Security and the potential for disruption are on the minds of U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand and court officials as they prepare for New York City’s latest major terrorism trial. In a case that has already seen one defendant take a run at the judge, and another attack and critically injure a guard at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Judge Sand of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York warned Tuesday that he will “not hesitate” to order the defendants removed from the courtroom and taken to special cells where they can watch the trial on closed-circuit television. ” … [W]e are going to extraordinary efforts to satisfy security needs,” Sand told lawyers at a pretrial hearing in the third-floor courtroom at 40 Foley Square. “We are certainly prepared to deal with any attempts to disrupt the proceedings … . “ Four defendants — Wadih El Hage, 40, Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, 35, Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-’Owhali, 23, and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, 27 — are accused of being part of a conspiracy to attack Americans and American installations abroad in actions that include the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania that killed more than 200 people and injured more than 1,000. The men are allegedly part of the Usama Bin Laden-led terrorist group al Qaeda. Bin Laden and several indicted co-conspirators remain at large. The first of some 1,500 potential jurors who began filling out a detailed questionnaire in December will arrive this morning to begin the long process of winnowing down to a final panel. Sand and the lawyers are expected to grill the prospective jurors with a broad array of questions, such as whether they are able to sit for a trial that could last nine months or longer. They will also be quizzed on their attitudes towards the death penalty, which is being sought by the government against Mohamed and Al-’Owhali. VOIR-DIRE RESTRICTED Sand has already taken the unusual step of declining to release the questionnaire in advance of voir dire. And on Tuesday, reversing a decision that he made in December, Sand said reporters will not be allowed to be present during the questioning of individual candidates for the jury. Although the judge said he was worried that prospective jurors will be required to divulge “intimate family facts and circumstances,” he has, in the past, also expressed concern that jurors already fearful for their safety may be reluctant to talk in front of the press. Sand, who is under the around-the-clock protection of U.S. Marshals, learned firsthand in 1999 about the need for special security in the case. During a pretrial hearing in June, El Hage jumped over the railing of the jury box and sprinted toward the judge. El Hage was tackled before he could reach the judge, and since that incident, the defendants have been in leg chains and surrounded by a phalanx of marshals. On Nov. 1, 2000, Manhattan Correctional Center officer Louis Pepe was stabbed in the eye with a makeshift knife, allegedly by defendant Mamdouh Mahmud Salim. Varying accounts have described the attack — which left Pepe in critical condition — as either an escape attempt or a bid to take hostages. Salim, who has been charged with attempted murder, will be tried separately from his co-defendants on the terrorism charges. The apparent need for restraints on the defendants has already clashed with their right to a fair trial free of prejudice in the minds of jurors. To reconcile these competing concerns, Sand has ordered that skirts be placed around the defense tables so the jury will be prevented from seeing their ankle chains. And U.S. Marshals have warned attorneys that they will not tolerate lawyers or their assistants entering and leaving the “well” that is separated from the spectator benches in the courtroom. OUTDOOR BARRIERS Outside of 40 Foley Square, one of the most awkward reminders of the impact that the threat of terrorism has had on daily life in lower Manhattan is about to see its last days. For more than two years, the section of Pearl Street that runs between the U.S. Court House at Foley Square and what is now the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse has been blocked off by large dump trucks filled with sand. For each car bearing a judge, or for every delivery truck bringing office supplies to the two courthouses, a driver would move the dump truck forward to allow entry, and back again to seal off the street. On Tuesday morning, workers returning to the court complex saw two newly installed guard houses at either end of the street. Next to those courthouses, embedded in the street, are brand new “Delta” barriers, reinforced steel barriers that are raised and lowered hydraulically. Nearby, workers are completing the installation of bollards, reinforced steel posts, which will surround the court complex and are designed to prevent a would-be terrorist from driving a truck loaded with explosives into the area. Southern District Executive Clifford P. Kirsch said that the completion of the security enhancements is unrelated to the upcoming trial, and that the improvements have been in the works for more than two years. Kirsch said that while the trucks filled with sand “did their job,” no one in the court system is sad to see them go. PRETRIAL RULINGS Judge Sand made two separate pre-trial rulings on Tuesday. He rejected several arguments made by lawyers for Mohamed and Al-’Owhali challenging the death penalty notices against the two men. And Sand also turned aside the attempt of defense lawyers to win the suppression of statements that El Hage allegedly made to law enforcement officers, as well as the fruits of a search conducted of El Hage at J.F.K. International Airport. In addition, Sand refused a request by El Hage to sanction the government for the supposed destruction of evidence tapes from electronic surveillance made in August and September 1998. “There is no real dispute that the loss of the evidence at issue here is properly charged to the government,” Sand wrote in the Dec. 15 decision, unsealed Tuesday. “However, El Hage does not establish that the failure to preserve the evidence was motivated by bad faith or ulterior motives.”

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