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American Taliban Pleads Not Guilty

Aired February 13, 2002 - 14:09   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The young American accused of fighting with the Taliban has pleaded not guilty to all 10 charges leveled against him. John Walker Lindh in federal court earlier today in Alexandria, Virginia, a few short miles from the Pentagon. He was arraigned today and Deborah Feyerick was watching things inside the courtroom and joins us now live with more -- Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, the arraignment really turned into a story of two American families, two sons on opposite sides of the war on terror, accused Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh and CIA agent Mike Spann. Spann was murdered inside a prison in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan during a prisoner uprising. This was hours after Spann had questioned Walker Lindh at that same prison.

Well today, inside the court, the two families drawn together in Virginia, Walker Lindh quietly and politely pleading not guilty to terrorism and conspiracy charges. Before he was let out, he exchanged a big smile with his dad who was sitting two rows behind. Spann's widow, Shannon, who was also in the court, just sitting across the aisle, told CNN she came there to see whether Walker Lindh would take responsibility for his actions. She was disappointed the charges against him carry only life in prison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHANNON SPANN, MIKE SPANN'S WIDOW: My view today is certainly that he should have been charged with treason, but I haven't had a chance to speak with the prosecutors yet and to understand the evidentiary decision making that went into that decision.

QUESTION: Do you think a life sentence is too easy on him?

SPANN: Certainly, I should have preferred the death penalty myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: After the arraignment, away from the cameras, there was a dramatic moment in the courtroom hallway. Walker Lindh's father, Frank, came up to the Spann family and extending his hand to the father, Johnny Spann, he said, I'm sorry about your son. My son had nothing to do with it. I'm sure your understand. Johnny Spann refused the handshake, turning his back as a court official tried to block Lindh from speaking to the family.

Now Spann later said that the Taliban fighter bore responsibility for the September 11 attacks and later for his son, Mike's death. And defense lawyers were asking for a November trial date, saying they would need time to travel to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Prosecutors had agreed, but the judge denied the request, saying in August or September, the trial would focus everyone's attention. Both sides are scheduled to meet Friday afternoon and that's when the exact trial date will be set -- Bill.

HEMMER: We'll watch it then. Deborah, thanks. Deborah Feyerick in Washington.

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