A judge warned Osama bin Laden's son-in-law Wednesday that a lawyer he hired to represent him on charges he conspired to kill Americans could end up in prison himself.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan told Sulaiman Abu Ghaith that he could cause himself problems by choosing attorney Stanley Cohen to defend him against charges that he conspired against Americans in his role as al-Qaida's chief spokesman.
Cohen was indicted last year in Syracuse, N.Y., on federal charges that he failed to file individual and corporate tax returns between 2005 and 2010 and committed other tax-related violations. A federal prosecutor in Manhattan told Kaplan that additional charges may be filed against Cohen.
Kaplan asked Abu Ghaith a series of questions designed to make sure the 47-year-old defendant understood the hazards of rejecting three public defenders to have Cohen and another attorney represent him.
The judge said he wanted to make clear to Abu Ghaith that Cohen "has interests that are potentially in conflict with your own."
He also told him it was "quite possibly ill advised" for a defendant to proceed with an attorney who faces criminal charges himself, and he noted that Cohen might not be able to obtain security clearance from the government to view classified materials necessary to prepare for trial.
Abu Ghaith insisted he wanted Cohen to represent him after his brother in Kuwait hired the veteran civil rights attorney.
"I understood he's very enthusiastic about this case," Abu Ghaith told Kaplan. "I thank you very much but I've made my decision."
The judge set a hearing for next week to further explore the legal issue. He told the government to submit legal papers explaining its position on whether Abu Ghaith can be represented by Cohen and whether his understanding of his rights was sufficient to switch lawyers.
Abu Ghaith has pleaded not guilty to charges that he urged the death of Americans after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Prosecutors say evidence against Abu Ghaith includes a widely circulated video of him in early October 2001 sitting with bin Laden and current al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri and another in which he calls on every Muslim to join the fight against the United States, declaring that "jihad is a duty."
Cohen said outside court that he believes he was chosen because of his extensive contacts throughout the Middle East and his ability to travel and speak with witnesses where other lawyers cannot.
"I've probably done more terrorism cases — real and fake — than any other lawyer in the United States," he said.
A 37-year-old Houston man convicted of killing a police officer 14 years ago has been put to death.
Jeffrey Demond Williams' execution Wednesday evening came just over an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-day appeal from his attorneys. Lawyers contended Williams had been failed by previous attorneys at his trial and in early stages of his appeals.
He's the sixth Texas inmate executed this year.
Williams was convicted of fatally shooting 39-year-old Houston officer Troy Blando while Blando was handcuffing him.
Blando was watching a motel where car thefts were suspected when he saw Williams drive up in a Lexus that was reported stolen.
Williams was captured about a block away. Blando's cuffs were hanging from one of his wrists.
Steam and ash clouds are occasionally rising to 20,000 feet from an active Alaska volcano.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory says in a release that an ash plume was reported rising from Pavlof Volcano on Tuesday evening at about 15,000 feet. It extended to the northeast about 100 miles before it dissipated.
The observatory says a pilot reported an ash plume about 20,000 feet on Wednesday, extending east-northeast from the volcano, located about 625 miles southwest of Anchorage in the Aleutian Islands.
The nearest community is Cold Bay, and residents reported seeing a glow from the summit Tuesday night. The observatory says photographs show a lava flow is still active down the volcano's northwest flank.