Rookie Judge to Preside Over Accused Benghazi Ringleader's Trial

Tuesday, 08 Jul 2014 08:42 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Rookie federal judge Christopher "Casey" Cooper has been randomly assigned to handle the sensitive, high-profile case of alleged Benghazi mastermind Ahmed Abu Khattala, The Washington Post reported.

Cooper, who was only confirmed by the Senate in March, will be presiding over the terrorism case at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

"He can handle it," William Jeffress, a partner at Cooper’s former law firm who is also his father-in-law, told the Post. "Casey didn’t come from academia or a corporate boardroom. He came from the trial bar, and he will be quite capable."

A one-count grand jury indictment alleges that Abu Khattala took part in a conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists in the 2012 attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Abu Khattala, a Libyan militant, is one of just a few cases in which the administration has captured a suspected terrorist overseas and interrogated him for intelligence purposes before bringing him to a U.S. court to face charges.

Cooper, 47, who has his formal investiture ceremony later this week, was a member of the Obama administration’s transition team, the Post said.

His wife, Amy Jeffress, was in charge of the national security section of the U.S. attorney’s office that has charged Khattala, and mentored the lead prosecutor on the case, Michael DiLorenzo, the Post said.

When he was an undergraduate at Yale University, Cooper’s roommate and close friend was John Rice, brother of National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

It was Rice’s controversial appearances on TV soon after the Benghazi siege that led to Republicans claiming that the Obama administration had attempted to cover up terrorism as the reason for the attacks ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

Potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was secretary of state at the time.

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