By NEIL A. LEWIS, New York Times
Published: May 9, 2006
WASHINGTON, May 8 ? Zacarias Moussaoui, who was sentenced last week to life in prison for his role in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, filed a motion on Monday asking to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial again.
Judge Leonie M. Brinkema quickly rejected Mr. Moussaoui’s motion, noting that under federal law a defendant may not withdraw a plea after sentencing. Nonetheless, the motion contained some interesting tidbits.
Mr. Moussaoui said he pleaded guilty in April 2005, over the advice of his court-appointed lawyers, because his "understanding of the American legal system was completely flawed." He said he was "extremely surprised" that the jury in the federal court in Alexandria, Va., decided to spare his life.
As a result, Mr. Moussaoui said he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea "because I now see that I can receive a fair trial even with Americans as jurors and that I can have the opportunity to prove that I did not have any knowledge of and was not a member of the plot to hijack planes and crash them into buildings on Sept. 11."
He said, "I had thought that I would be sentenced to death based on the emotions and anger toward me for the deaths on Sept. 11, but after reviewing the jury verdict and reading how the jurors set aside their emotions and disgust for me and focused on the law and the evidence that was presented during the trial, I came to understand that the jury process was more complex than I had assumed."
Last Wednesday, the jury rejected the Justice Department’s argument that Mr. Moussaoui, the only person charged in an American courtroom with involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks, be given a death sentence. On Thursday, Judge Brinkema sentenced him to life in prison.
In the affidavit attached to his motion, Mr. Moussaoui also said he lied when he testified during his trial that he had planned to fly a fifth plane into the White House as part of the Sept. 11 plot. He was also lying, he asserted, when he said he had been an intimate of Mohammed Atta, the pilot of one of the hijacked planes that day.
Mr. Moussaoui is expected to be moved shortly to a maximum security federal prison in Florence, Colo., where he will be kept in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. There is no parole in the federal system.