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Jury to Get Trade Center Bomb Case Later in Week

February 16, 1994|ROBERT L. JACKSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — A federal judge said Tuesday that he planned to present the World Trade Center bombing case to jurors later this week and expected them to start deliberations after the three-day Presidents Day weekend.

U.S. District Judge Kevin T. Duffy announced the timetable on a day when a federal prosecutor spent five more hours finishing closing arguments.

Duffy said defense lawyers will start their final presentations this morning on behalf of the four defendants charged in the terrorist explosion last Feb. 26 that killed six persons and injured more than 1,000 others.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Henry DePippo, who began his summation on Monday, spent much of Tuesday talking about an apartment in New Jersey that he termed "a bomb factory."

During 18 weeks of testimony by more than 200 witnesses, the prosecution showed the apartment had been rented in 1992 by Mohammed A. Salameh, the principal defendant, and was shared by Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, a mysterious Iraqi who fled the United States only hours after the explosion and is under indictment as a fugitive.

DePippo said a pair of acid-stained shoes belonging to Mahmud Abouhalima, another defendant, as well as 50 phone calls to and from the apartment to Abouhalima's home showed his hand in the bomb-making. Abouhalima fled to his native Egypt several days after the blast, but was seized by Egyptian authorities and turned over to the FBI.

In addition, there were 84 phone calls the month before the bombing between the phone in the apartment and a third defendant, Nidal Ayyad, a chemical engineer who gave advice on mixing the explosives, DePippo told the jury. Other records showed Ayyad helped in purchasing chemicals, he said.

Authorities found the walls and carpeting in the apartment streaked with chemical residues.

Salameh, the first man arrested last March, has acknowledged renting a yellow van used to carry the bomb into the trade center. But he has claimed the vehicle was stolen from him the night before the blast.

A fourth defendant, Ahmad Ajaj, is charged in the conspiracy chiefly on grounds he brought bomb-making manuals and special training videos into the United States in September, 1992. Ajaj was in jail on immigration violations at the time of the explosion.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum punishment of life imprisonment without parole.

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