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The entire Northern District of California bench has been recused from hearing whether a former electronics CEO tried to have a federal judge killed, while the defendant’s attorneys moved Wednesday to distance themselves from the case. Amr Mohsen, of Los Gatos, Calif., will now appear in front of Eastern District Judge William Shubb, though the case has not been transferred out of the district. Shubb will be in Oakland, Calif., later this month for his first hearing in the case. On Wednesday, Mohsen pleaded not guilty to charges that he solicited the murder of U.S. District Judge William Alsup. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman took the plea, but then referred all substantive matters to Shubb. Mohsen’s attorney, John Williams Jr. of Manchester & Williams & Seibert in San Jose, Calif., told Zimmerman that he and co-counsel Edward Swanson of Swanson & McNamara had conflicts of interest and needed to get out of the case. He asked that Mohsen, who is in isolation while in custody, be allowed to contact other attorneys. Zimmerman said he could not change an order by Chief District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel forbidding contact with anyone besides Williams and Swanson. Mohsen is also to be kept in his cell 24 hours a day and is only allowed out for three hours each week, according to the order. Outside court, Williams said he could not discuss the conflict. He also did not have an explanation for why the entire bench was recused, except to point out that he expected such a move after Judge Phyllis Hamilton, who had the case for a short time, recused herself. Williams said he was sorry to see Hamilton go. “Once she did, it became clear that the rest of the bench would follow,” he added. Williams did not move to recuse the bench, but such a move would not have been unexpected. In 1999, for example, a judge from outside Santa Clara County was appointed to hear a state court case of a man accused of threatening the lives of two Superior Court judges there. By contrast, the 1996 federal case against Gerald Berry McKee remained in the Northern District, even though McKee was accused of threatening an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Judges Claudia Wilken and Samuel Conti. The case against Mohsen, however, is much more serious than a threat, according to prosecutors. Alsup presided over a patent case that Mohsen lost. After that litigation ended, Alsup found that Mohsen had doctored evidence, and a federal grand jury charged him with perjury. Alsup was also the judge in the criminal case. Mohsen was in custody and awaiting trial in the criminal case when he allegedly approached another inmate about intimidating witnesses and killing Alsup, according to a federal indictment made public last week. Alsup had recused himself while prosecutors were pursuing the charge of solicitation of murder. Shubb served as Eastern District U.S. Attorney from 1980 to 1981. The first President Bush appointed him to the bench in 1990, and he served as chief judge from 1996 to 2003. He was born in Oakland and attended Boalt Hall School of Law.

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