Va. jury convicts 5 men in pirate case
Update: 12:15 p.m.
Virginia jury has convicted five Somali men on 14 charges stemming from April attack on US Navy ship.
Jurors resumed their deliberations Wednesday in the piracy trial of five Somali men accused in the armed assault on a U.S. Navy ship patrolling the pirate-plagued waters off Africa.
Jurors who met for a full day Tuesday entered the federal courthouse shortly before 9 a.m. to continuing weighing piracy, plundering and 12 other counts against the defendants. A piracy conviction carries a mandatory life term.
U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis told jurors at the start of the two-week trial he would not call them back on Thanksgiving and Friday if they had not reached a verdict. They would return on Monday.
Jurors informed Davis on Tuesday night they were not close to a verdict after 7½ hours of deliberations.
The five men are accused in the April 1 attack on the USS Nicholas, a Norfolk-based frigate that was patrolling nearly 600 miles off Somalia as part of an international anti-piracy flotilla.
An 18-foot skiff with three men aboard fired assault rifles at the 453-foot Nicholas, hitting a mast and tearing into a safety wire before realizing they were firing at a heavily armed warship, not a merchant vessel, according to the government.
Attorneys for the five have presented a duress defense — arguing that they were fishermen who were kidnapped, beaten and forced under gunpoint to attack the Nicholas.
The piracy trial is the first in a federal court since the crew of the privateer Savannah was put on trial in New York City in 1861. The trial ended in a hung jury.
A piracy conviction has not been successfully prosecuted in a U.S. court in nearly two centuries.
| November 24, 2010; 11:34 AM ET
Categories: Crime and Public Safety, Virginia
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