Upsetting
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
 
This is a fascinating story about these fascinating times.

NEW YORK -- It was the luck of the draw.

Some other spring morning, Donna Newman would have encountered a different client in a prison jumpsuit, someone accused of fraud or drug trafficking. Instead, arriving at the federal courthouse in downtown Manhattan in May 2002, she met Jose Padilla.

Newman serves on a panel of private practice attorneys who occasionally take on indigent clients facing federal charges. She accepts new cases two days a year.

"I believe in defending indigents," she said. "You gotta give back." At the time, though, she had no inkling how much she was about to give.

Padilla, arrested by the FBI at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on May 8, had been flown east to appear before a grand jury as a material witness. The subject he supposedly had knowledge of -- an al Qaeda plan to detonate a "dirty bomb" in the United States -- sounded scarier than most.

Another alarming sign was that every time Newman set her pen down on the courtroom table during that first appearance, federal marshals handed it back to her, evidently so that Padilla couldn't seize it as a weapon.
 
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