U.S. tries to link bomber to jailhouse stabbing
By Phil Hirschkorn
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Government prosecutors tried Wednesday to show jurors that convicted embassy bomber Khalfan Khamis Mohamed still poses a threat to society because he participated in a jailhouse stabbing that left a guard incapacitated.
The same jury that convicted Mohamed in the August 7, 1998, bombing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and the murders of the 11 people killed is now hearing testimony to decide his sentence -- either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The fact Mohamed might pose a danger, even behind bars, is one characteristic the government is attempting to prove to justify a death sentence.
The stabbing incident took place November 1, 2000, in the high-security wing of Manhattan's federal jail, Metropolitan Correctional Center, where Mohamed and his embassy bombings codefendants are incarcerated.
Mohamed's cellmate for five days before the attack was the alleged perpetrator of the stabbing, inmate Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, an alleged high-ranking associate of Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden is the Saudi exile prosecutors say directs the worldwide conspiracy to kill Americans that included the coordinated embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. Those bombings killed a total of 224 people, including 12 Americans who worked in Nairobi.
Salim allegedly stabbed corrections officer Louis Pepe with a comb purchased in the jail commissary and sharpened into a weapon. Although no one else actually saw the stabbing, witnesses concurred it happened in a hallway as Pepe led Salim without handcuffs -- a deviation from normal procedure -- from a meeting with his attorneys back to his cell.
Photographs introduced into evidence show a trail of blood along the route.
"He [Pepe] was covered in blood and there was an object protruding from his eye," said Paul Mcallister, Salim's former attorney who saw the aftermath of the attack through a window of the locked attorney-inmate meeting room.
Before the attack, Salim said he considered himself falsely accused, felt his rights were violated, and was unhappy with his legal representation, Mcallister said.
After other guards subdued Salim, Mcallister said one guard "removed a key from a key ring and jabbed it toward the eye." Mcallister said Salim was cut in the face but suffered no lasting eye injury.
Corrections officer Robert Jenkins was the first to respond to the body alarm triggered by Pepe. Jenkins said he followed Salim down a corridor to his cell, carrying a Plexiglas shield for protection.
Jenkins said as he came down the corridor, "Mohamed lunged at me" and squirted liquid at him from a bottle. Jenkins and corrections officer Lance Maiden pinned Mohamed down and handcuffed him.
"He [Mohamed] was in a fighting stance waiting for the officers' response," Maiden said.
After an opportunity to review his original incident report, Jenkins recalled Mohamed had blood on his hands. Maiden said he did not remember that.
There is no tape of the incident. Although the area where the attack took place is usually under video surveillance 24 hours a day, jurors were told the videotape unit that would have recorded the incident had not been working since July 2000.
Pepe lost his left eye and suffered brain damage. His right side is paralyzed and his speech is garbled. He is still hospitalized and will not testify.
"I gave them a good fight," Pepe said, according to the first doctor who treated him at the jail.
Salim is scheduled to go on trial in September on a charge of attempted murder.
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