U.S. District Judge Robert B. Kugler listened to 2 1/2 hours of testimony yesterday about whether five Fort Dix terror suspects could review evidence against them at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia to prepare for their upcoming trial.
Then, the federal judge in Camden asked the hearing's only witness, Darrin Howard, an attorney-adviser at the FDC, at 7th and Arch streets, one question:
"If there are five defendants in three cells, why can't you provide three laptops for them to review the evidence?"
His question offered a practical solution to an ongoing headache for the court, the prison and the attorneys on both sides who have repeatedly had to deal with the defendants' complaints about lack of access to evidence.
Earlier this month, Kugler threatened to release the five defendants on bail if they couldn't review the evidence in prison.
Defendants Mohammad Ibrahim Shnewer; the three Duka brothers: Shain, Eljvir and Dritan; and Serder Tartar are accused of plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix military base.
Yesterday, the judge continued the bail hearing until Jan. 3, giving Howard time to research the issue. He also rescheduled a pretrial hearing for Jan. 3-4, immediately after the bail hearing.
Prosecutors reported that FDC officials had told them that Shnewer had asked only three times to review evidence.
After gaining subpoenas for prison records, Shnewer's attorney, Rocco Cipparone, found that his client had made at least 20 requests since August and that he had been permitted to review evidence only five times. *