D.C. lawyer will defend Al-Arian

Sami Al-Arian will no longer represent himself against charges of conspiracy to murder and racketeering in a 50-count indictment. William B. Moffitt, a prominent attorney from Washington, D.C., submitted a notice of appearance Wednesday at the Federal District Court in Tampa to represent Al-Arian, according to the Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace.

Al-Arian had been seeking to hire Moffitt since early July to replace court-appointed attorneys Jeffrey Brown and Frank Louderback.

On July 9, Brown and Louderback were dismissed from the case at Al-Arian’s request. According to federal court documents, Al-Arian owes about $32,000 to the court-appointed attorneys for court services. Brown and Louderback were assigned to the case in April, when Al-Arian lost his first attorney Nicholas Mattasini because he could no longer afford his $2- million fee.

According to an Associated Press report published in July, Al-Arian was said to need at least $1.2 million to hire Moffitt, who is the former president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Tampa criminal defense attorney Linda Moreno will join Moffitt in defending Al-Arian. Moreno also filed a notice of appearance on Wednesday, according to an e-mail from the Coalition for Justice and Peace.

Al-Arian’s wife, Nahla, could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Moffitt and Moreno will hold a news conference Friday at attorney Bob McKee’s office.

Al-Arian was arrested Feb. 20 and described by the government as the North American leader and fund- raiser of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The PIJ is a militant group that seeks an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. Al-Arian had never been charged with a crime before his indictment. His trial is scheduled for January 2005.