Mistrial Declared on Murder Counts for Benghazi Suspect

WASHINGTON (CN) — Less than a week after jurors convicted a Libyan militant in connection to the 2012 Benghazi attacks, a federal judge declared a mistrial Monday on 15 related charges.

Jurors have been deadlocked on the remaining charges against Mustafa al-Imam since returning a guilty verdict Thursday on conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and aiding in the malicious destruction of American property.

U.S. Army Special Operations Forces captured Al-Imam in 2017, five years after insurgents overran the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, setting a blaze that ultimately caused Ambassador Christopher Stevens and and U.S. Foreign Service officer Sean Smith to die of smoke inhalation.

A separate mortar attack at a nearby CIA annex the next morning killed CIA contractors Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

Prosecutors brought al-Imam to trial after a similarly mixed verdict against Ahmed Abu Khattalah, the head of the Islamist extremist militia who was accused of masterminding the attacks.

Abu Khattalah received a 22-year sentence after he was convicted of terrorism-related offenses but acquitted of the most serious charges including murder.

Charges against Al-Imam included murder and aiding and abetting, and U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper offered the jury some guidance for their deliberations early Monday before declaring a mistrial.

“For premeditated murder, you do not have to find that the defendant, one he aided and abetted, or a co-conspirator intended to kill a specific person,” Cooper advised. “You still must find that the defendant, one he aided and abetted, or a co-conspirator acted with premeditation and malice.”

During Khatallah’s trial, several witnesses identified al-Imam on footage from grainy surveillance video in the compound during the attack that showed him at one of the two sites.

Al-Imam’s trial began in early May, and deliberations began on June 5.

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