Defense closes its case in Moussaoui death penalty trial

WASHINGTON – Prosecutors seeking to have Zacarias Moussaoui sentenced to death conceded Thursday there’s no evidence he plotted with failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid to hijack a fifth plane on Sept. 11.

The defense closed its case in Moussaoui’s death penalty trial by reading a statement agreed to by the prosecution that contradicted Moussaoui’s earlier boast that he was closely involved with Reid in Sept. 11 plotting.

"No information is available to indicate that Richard Reid had preknowledge of the Sept. 11 operation or was instructed by al-Qaida leaders to conduct an operation in coordination with Moussaoui," the statement said.

Moussaoui and Reid had a "close relationship in Afghanistan" at an al-Qaida training camp, the statement said, but the two were considered minor functionaries in the terror group and it was "highly unlikely" they collaborated on Sept. 11.

Reid is serving a life sentence in Colorado for the December 2001 attempted shoe-bombing of a jetliner, and Moussaoui could face the death penalty on his guilty plea to terror conspiracy.

The trial was adjourned until Monday, when closing arguments could begin.

Earlier, relatives of Sept. 11 victims evoked gentle laughter from the jury as they testified about their loved ones’ joy in life.

These were the last defense witnesses. They are against the death penalty but could not state so explicitly under technicalities of the law.

Alice Hoagland, whose son Mark Bingham battled the hijackers aboard United Flight 93, told of her initial shock when Mark, 31, told her he was gay.

"Here was this big, studly guy," Hoagland said of her 6-foot-5, rugby-playing son, who was also something of a slob – "dirty dishes under the bed."

But Hoagland said she is now a gay rights advocate and was close with Mark’s "shall we say, avant-garde," friends.

As a boy, Adele Welty’s firefighter son, Tim, 34, who died in the towers’ collapse, was found to be secretly rescuing mice caught in his mother’s traps.

"Recuperating rodents in my garage would not have appealed to me," she said with a grin.

But Tim, who once went barefoot to a rock concert and had to wrap his feet in duct tape to get in, "had a great reverence for life, even the smallest of God’s creatures," his mother said.

Moussaoui, who often disrupts the court with bizarre outbursts, was unusually subdued. He waited until the relatives had left the courtroom before issuing a lackluster "God curse America."

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