Our Fair City

Denver is such a world-class town that even terrorists want to visit!

On Monday, the government filed its response to Moussaoui's request for a change of venue -- and while it doesn't read like a ringing endorsement for this city's clear skies and clear heads, it also appears that Denver won't be getting another show trial anytime soon. (Too bad: If the just-departed Lion King poured at least $40 million into this city's economy -- not including $13 million in ticket sales -- as more of those city boosters suggest, just imagine what a bonanza we'd mine from another months-long trial that attracted all those big-spending national press types.)

Moussaoui's motion offers two reasons to change venues: the "personal safety for the jury" argument and the need to avoid a jury pool with an "over representation of loyal government employees," prosecutors note. In response, they offer a slew of arguments why "neither reason is sufficient to support a change of venue" -- although not one of those arguments mentions that a Colorado jury pool would have plenty of federal-worker "over representation," too.

As for Moussaoui's focus on a "neutral" venue such as this city, and only this city: "Defendant's reasons for requesting a change of venue to Denver only elliptically suggest that the jury pool in Denver would be more fair to him," the prosecutors say. They identify Moussaoui's five arguments offered in Denver's favor: its proximity to Florence, hence "the feeling of personal safety"; the "high altitude and fresh air"; the fact that "Denver is not the scene of a recent government or American attack (New York, Oklahoma, etc.)"; the rationale that "a judge in Colorado might feel less afraid, more confident and less pressurized than a judge in the Rocket Docket" (that's the name given the U.S. District Court in this part of Virginia, which is known for its speedy trials); and the fact that McVeigh was granted a change of venue to Denver.

"That case, however, was patently different from this one," the prosecutors respond. "When the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, that District was uniquely and extraordinarily affected by the defendants' conduct, which led the judge in that case to note that it was perceived as an Oklahoma tragedy and to find 'that there is such a great prejudice against these two defendants in the State of Oklahoma that they cannot obtain a fair and impartial trial at any place fixed by law for holding court in that state.'"

The September 11 attacks, on the other hand, "are viewed as a national tragedy affecting the entire nation," the prosecutors say. "Moreover, every community in the United States has been directly affected by the security measures instituted since the attacks."

On Tuesday, Judge Brinkema entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Moussaoui at his rearraignment on a revised indictment in connection with those attacks. "I do not accept this plea of not guilty," he told the courtroom. "I have no plea. I will plead no contest. I have nothing to say to the United States. That's all."

For now, folks.

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