Lawyer for Bin Laden Relative Questions Terror Expert's Motives
MANHATTAN (CN) - It was a contentious day in court Friday as defense attorneys for Osama bin Laden's son-in-law spent the morning trying to discredit a government consultant as someone who makes his living on terrorism.
It was Day 7 in the jury trial of alleged Al-Qaida spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith, unfolding in a high-rise courtroom just blocks from the new One World Trade Center, where the Twin Towers once stood.
Evan Kohlmann, the terrorism expert whom federal prosecutors called to the stand Thursday, faced cross-examination by Abu Ghaith's defense attorney, Stanley Cohen, who sports a long gray beard and ashen ponytail.
Cohen mentioned how Kohlmann earns $400 per hour for his terror expertise in the courtroom, plus what he makes testifying about terrorism in foreign courts.
Kohlmann's terror watchdog group meanwhile has made $1.2 million over the years, and he has made an estimated $700,000 as MSNBC's go-to terrorism expert, the lawyer said.
"The field of terrorism is pretty profitable for you, isn't it?" Cohen asked.
Kohlmann, who graduated from law school, answered: "No, I would make more money if I became a lawyer."
Cohen also went point-by-point through Kohlmann's credentials, asking whether the witness was an academic, a teacher, a member of a federal agency or law enforcement, or holder of security clearance.
"No, no, no," Kohlmann said.
Focusing on a suspected terrorist's trial in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Cohen said the government asked Kohlmann to change the title of a 45-minute video it paid him $20,000 to produce - and that Kohlmann did.
"So you would prepare a report, show it to the prosecution," and they would give it back with suggested changes? Cohen asked.
Kohlmann insisted that he was a neutral expert witness and that he would be "more than happy to turn information over" if he knew it would exonerate someone falsely accused of terrorism.
The questioning at times angered U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who raised his voice at Cohen on several occasions, at one point banged his hand on the bench, and even let go a zinger that - as usual with Kaplan - drew laughter from the courtroom: "Einstein's Theory of Relativity is expressing a single line."
Abu Ghaith was captured and flown to the United States last year on accusations that he was an al-Qaida higher-up and the terror group's mouthpiece after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Abu Ghaith - who married bin Laden's eldest daughter Fatima five years ago - has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to kill Americans and providing material aid to a known terrorist group.
He has said he didn't know about the attacks beforehand, but said he eventually accepted bin Laden's request to speak for the terrorist group.
His trial resumes Monday.