Nidal Hasan sentenced to death for Fort Hood shooting rampage
by Billy Kenber
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan was sentenced to death Wednesday for killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in a 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Tex., the worst mass murder at a military installation in U.S. history.
Dressed in Army fatigues, Hasan, who turns 43 next month, listened impassively as the death sentence was handed down by a panel of 13 senior military officers in a unanimous decision after less than two hours of deliberations. If even a single panel member had objected, Hasan would instead have been sentenced to life in prison. He also was stripped of pay and other financial benefits, which he continued to receive while in custody.
No active-duty service member has been executed since 1961, and legal experts said it will probably be many years, if ever, before the sentence will be carried out. Hasan will be flown shortly to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he will join five other inmates on military death row, officials said.
In military cases, there are several mandatory appeal stages and a military death sentence requires final approval by the president, as commander in chief.
Despite the expected delays, survivors of the shooting welcomed the verdict. According to news reports, Kathy Platoni, an Army reservist, said: “From the bottom of my heart — he doesn't deserve to live. I don't know how long it takes for a death sentence to be carried out, but the world will be a better place without him.”
Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was found guilty this month on 13?counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder after opening fire Nov. 5, 2009, at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center, where troops were getting medical checkups before deploying to Afghanistan.
Hasan, who was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan a few weeks later, shouted “Allahu akbar!” meaning “God is great,” before targeting soldiers with a high-powered, high-capacity handgun he had fitted with laser sights. He was apprehended by military police officers after firing more than 200 shots.
Prosecutors aggressively pursued the death sentence during the 22-day court-martial this month, calling more than 100 witnesses, including 20 victims and relatives of the deceased to testify in a courtroom just a few miles from the site of the shooting.
During two days of evidence ahead of his sentencing, they described, in often emotional testimony, their grief and suffering.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Zeigler, who was shot four times and had more than 20 percent of his brain removed in surgery, told the court, “I was expected to either die or remain in a vegetative state.” He said that his personality has changed and that he is “a lot angrier, a lot darker than I used to be.”
The father of a pregnant 21-year-old private from Chicago, Francheska Velez, who was fatally shot as she pleaded for the life of her baby, testified in Spanish that Hasan had “killed me slowly.” Velez was one of three women killed in the shooting.
The court heard that Hasan had carefully planned his attack, training at a local firing range and researching jihad on his computer. The FBI and Defense Department have drawn criticism for failing to prevent the attack after missing a number of warning signs.
Hasan, an American-born Muslim, had exchanged e-mails with a leading al-Qaeda figure in which he asked whether those attacking fellow soldiers were martyrs. The e-mails were seen by the FBI. Hasan also once gave a presentation to Army doctors discussing Islam and suicide bombers and said Muslims should be allowed to leave the armed forces as conscientious objectors to avoid “adverse events.”
The psychiatrist, who acted as his own attorney, tried to plead guilty before the start of the trial but was unable to do so under military rules governing death penalty cases.
He called no witnesses, offered no testimony and declined to make any statements beyond a brief opening comment in which he took responsibility for the shooting and said he was a soldier who had decided to “switch sides” in what he believed was a U.S. war against Islam.
As a result, he faced accusations that he deliberately sought the death sentence.
But in a phone interview Wednesday, his former attorney denied that Hasan, who is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair after being shot by military officers, had a death wish.
John P. Galligan, a civilian lawyer who regularly visits Hasan in jail, said his former client was denied the opportunity to defend himself when the judge barred him from arguing that he had carried out the mass shooting to save the lives of Taliban leaders in Afghanistan.
Galligan, who continues to provide legal assistance, denounced the proceedings as “almost a ludicrous show trial to secure a death penalty, even though they know it's unlikely that it would be ever actually implemented.”
Galligan said the appeals would probably “go on for decades.”
“In all honesty, he stands a far more likely chance of dying from medical reasons than dying because he's been sentenced to death,” he said.
‘New NYPD low': Muslims outraged by ‘terror enterprise' mosque probes
At least a dozen NYC mosques were put under police surveillance after 9/11 on the basis of being ‘terrorism enterprise investigations,' the AP reports.
by Kerry Burke AND Tina Moore
The NYPD slapped a terrorist organization label on mosques in order to put its members under surveillance, it was revealed Wednesday.
Cops opened at least a dozen “terrorism enterprise investigations” after the 9/11 attacks, The Associated Press reported.
A confidential NYPD document shows police wanted to place informants on the boards at mosques and other organizations.
Asked about the report, Mayor Bloomberg defended the tactics.
“What we do is we try to keep this city safe, totally consistent with what the laws require,” he said.
“We believe that we are compliant with those laws.”
But irate Muslim-Americans were calling for a federal probe into the spying that included using informants to record sermons and spy on imams.
“This is a new level of low for the New York Police Department,” said Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn.
“As we were inviting Commissioner (Raymond) Kelly and his leadership into our mosques — into our institutions — he was coming through the back door,” she said.
Sarsour, whose organization helps new immigrants, was among about a dozen Muslim community members calling for a federal probe outside police headquarters.
“I literally saw that document and saw my organization's name on it and I started crying,” said Sarsour. “I felt betrayed.”
The report was enough to make Ahmad Jaber, of the Arab American Association of New York, resign from the NYPD's Muslim Advisory Council.
The council was created to connect the NYPD with the city's Muslims. “This is the straw that broke the camel's back,” he said.
Kelly, speaking on MSNBC's “Morning Joe,” stressed that the intelligence-gathering programs began after 9/11.
“We follow leads wherever they take us,” Kelly said. “We're not intimidated as to wherever that lead takes us. And we're doing that to protect the people of New York City.”
Among the mosques targeted as early as 2003 was the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn.
“It's their imagination,” said Zein Rimawi, 59, one of the Bay Ridge mosque's leaders. “They've been watching us for years. Have they found anything?”
Ahmed Nasr, 20, a psychology major at the College of Staten Island, was disappointed by the spying at his mosque.
“As an American Muslim, I live my life as an American,” he said. “I eat the same food, watch the same TV. I just pray to Allah.”
Notorious Pillowcase Rapist to be released in L.A. County
by Christina Villacorte
A man who raped 38 women over decades throughout California is coming back to Los Angeles — the scene of many of his crimes — after the state Supreme Court late Wednesday denied prosecutors' attempts to keep him under lock and key at a state mental hospital.
Christopher Hubbart, dubbed the “Pillowcase Rapist” because he muffled his victims' screams by placing pillowcases over their heads, could be released within weeks, though the exact date is unknown.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey petitioned the state Supreme Court in July to block his release from Coalinga State Hospital, but the move failed.
“We aggressively pursued and exhausted all legal avenues to stop the release of sexually violent predator Christopher Hubbart to Los Angeles County,” Lacey said Wednesday.
“We now are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that all terms and conditions of Hubbart's release from custody are strictly enforced,” she added.
“I'm extremely disappointed,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. “Releasing this individual into the county where many of the victims and their families live is unreasonable and unfair.”
Efforts are underway to notify Hubbart's victims.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Luis Patiño could not discuss Hubbart's case specifically but said that generally ex-cons with a record like his can expect to be closely monitored by parole agents.
“Any sex offender, especially one that's a serial rapist, would be subject to 24-hour supervision with a GPS ankle bracelet, register (as a sex offender) and be placed under very strong special conditions of parole,” Patiño said.
Lacey noted in her petition that Hubbart testified in court about his crimes before being committed to Atascadero State Hospital as a “mentally disordered offender.”
“(Hubbart) began to sexually assault women in their homes in 1972,” the petition said. “He committed 25 or 26 such assaults that year, all of them in the Los Angeles area. He would drive around in the early morning and look for homes that had garage doors open, indicating the man of the house had gone to work. He would also look for children's toys, believing that mothers would be protective of their children and more likely to cooperate with him. He would bind the women's hands and cover their faces, then sexually assault them.”
When he was released in 1979, he attacked more women in San Francisco and Sunnyvale, was convicted and re-committed to Atascadero. After Hubbart was paroled in 1990, he attacked a female jogger and was sent back to state prison.
In 1993, he was paroled yet again and lived in Claremont. “Within two months,” the petition stated, “his supervision by San Bernardino County ended since he felt he was losing control.” At that point, he was recommitted and remains in custody — but not for much longer.
Hubbart's case prompted the state Legislature to pass the Sexually Violent Predators Act, which allows authorities to keep offenders like Hubbart in custody until officials deem them safe.
After hearing from mental health professionals in April, a Santa Clara County judge ruled Hubbart, now 62, eligible for release and ordered him relocated to Los Angeles County.
Over Lacey's protests, a San Jose appeals court and the state Supreme Court both upheld the decision.