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2012-08-09

Judge sez to Hasan, 'Shave or be shaved'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

United States Army Major Nidal Hasan has been held in contempt of court and fined $1,000 for disobeying a direct order to appear for pre-trial hearings clean-shaven. However, the contempt of court ruling - even accompanied by a $1,000 fine - pales in comparison with the charges faced by 41-year-old Hasan. The American-born Muslim has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.

The Friday, August 3, sortie in the case of United States vs. Maj. Nidal M. Hasan was held in the Lawrence J. Williams Judicial Center at Fort Hood, near Killeen with military judge Col. Gregory Gross presiding.

During a hearing in July, the judge noted that if Hasan fails to shave his unauthorized beard prior to the future hearings, he would be shaved forcibly.

At that hearing, Gross held Hasan in contempt of court for sporting facial hair and imposed on him the maximum fine of $1,000 for the first time. Although still an officer in the US Army, Hasan has repeatedly failed to comply with Army grooming standards, which doesn't normally include full facial hair. As an officer, he continues to receive pay while incarcerated and awaiting trial.

As expected, at the conclusion of the contempt hearing, Hasan refused to voluntarily shave, opting instead to watch the remainder of the hearing outside the courtroom via a close-circuit television feed. Gross then informed Hasan accused that if he did not voluntarily shave, he would likely "compel a shaving sometime in the future so the accused could personally attend forthcoming court-martial hearings." However, that hasn't as yet come to pass.

In an interview with Associated Press reporter Angela K Brown, Dr. Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio, said, "He's going to play the religious card and this is his last card to play ... because no one believes he's not going to be found guilty."

Hasan first appeared in court with his newly sprouted beard on June 8. Since then, he has viewed legal wranglings via a closed circuit feed in a trailer adjacent to the courthouse. Noting that Hasan's appearance disrupted court proceedings, Gross ruled that the defendant would not be re-admitted to the courtroom until he was clean-shaven as required by Army regulations - or until he was granted an exception to policy for religious reasons. The Department of the Army declined to grant Hasan a religious accommodation for the wearing of a beard.

In addition, the Army Court of Criminal Appeals had refused to hear Hasan's appeal of Gross' decision to remove him from the courtroom because of the beard.

During a hearing on Friday, August 3, Gross ruled on defense motions to compel the production of documents and requests for experts.

He denied Hasan's defense team various unredacted and withheld FBI documents, an unredacted report from William Webster given to the director of the FBI and a report compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Gross also denied the defense access to investigations surrounding classes taught at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.

Additionally, Gross noted that the US Senate would make certain documents available for inspection to both the defense and prosecution concerning a Senate Committee Report on the Fort Hood Shootings. He also provided the defense with two experts at government expense, Dr. James Richardson, an expert on social science methodology; and Dr. Lewis Rambo, an expert on religious conversion.

The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, August 9. At that time, Gross the defense and prosecution would argue merits of allowing government expert Evan Kohlmann to testify as an expert witness in Hasan's looming general court martial.

An international expert in terrorism, Kohlmann has served as an expert witness for the US government in 17 terrorism cases in the United States and nine abroad. This, according to the New York Magazine, makes him "the most prolific such expert in the country."

The defense noted they planned on calling Richardson to challenge Kohlmann's methodologies when reviewing evidence in this case. Although Gross made no final decision, he indicated that he might take telephonic testimony from both Kohlmann and Richardson during the Aug. 9 hearing.

The charges against Hasan relate to a Nov. 5, 2009, armed attack at Fort Hood's Soldier Readiness Processing Center near Killeen, which a Senate report described as "the worst terrorist attack on US soil since September 11, 2001."

During the 10-minute shooting spree, a civilian police officer shot the suspect Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, paralyzing him from the waist down. Hasan was treated for his injuries at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Barring another continuance, his trial is set to begin on Monday, August 20, at Fort Hood. The accused is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.