In Muse's case, his notoriety could well be the reason for his being kept in the SHU (Security Housing Unit), away from other inmates who might want to make a name for themselves by harming him.
Muse's isolation is compounded by his almost complete lack of English language skills, and a lack of familiarity with everything from the cold cuts on the prison menu to the use of a small commissary fund of $40.00 set up by his lawyers to allow him to purchase foods or personal items, or make telephone calls home to his family. Initially, puzzled by the lunch meats, he pushed them to the side, eating only his vegetables or salad.
According to Weinstein, when confronted with the commissary menu, which is in English, despite attempts through a translator to explain to him that he could order tuna fish, or other items, Muse did not, until recently make use of it. But in recent days he has, purchasing peanut butter and a few other items.
Believed by his attorneys to be somewhere between 16 and 20 years of age, Muse has some hair--"almost like peach fuzz" under his lip, but none on the sides of his face, Weinstein, a federal public defender, says.
Right now, based on decisions made at his initial court appearance, Muse is being treated as an adult and the legal proceedings are going forward in open court.
At that appearance he sobbed and showed no evidence of any of the bravado he might have displayed as the pirate alleged to have first boarded the Alabama on April 8th.
Arguments by his attorneys that he should be tried as a youth were not accepted, and Judge Andrew Peck noted conflicting testimony by Muse's father about his children's' ages and Muse's admission in a closed hearing that he had lied about his age to an FBI agent. Muse's attorneys are still seeking witnesses who can help clear up the issue of their clients agent. But that search is hampered by the fact that those witnesses are in Somali, a difficult and lawless place, his attorneys said. The fact that three federal public defenders -- all experienced -- are on Muse's team, is indicative of the complexity and the gravity of the case. The lawyers are faced with travel and budgetary issues and constraints as well as considerations as to the safety of any witness willing to come forward.
A ten count indictment against Muse was unsealed Tuesday charging him with committing piracy, and related offenses including the use of force to hijack the Maersk, threatening its captain with a firearm, possessing a machine gun and holding the captain hostage. A conviction on the top charge of piracy carries a mandatory life sentence. Weinstein and the other two attorneys on Muse's team are exploring whether he was forced into piracy, whether he is a juvenile, what his mental state and age might be, as they begin to construct their client's defense. At this point, while Muse may not understand the U.S. legal system, he does understand the gravity of his situation, and has come to trust that his lawyers work for him, and not for the government.
"He understands it's serious. He understands it is going to take some time to play out," Weinstein said.