June 17, 2011 -- Osama bin Laden is in the clear. Federal prosecutors have elected to drop hundreds of criminal charges against the al Qaeda leader and architect of the 9/11 terror attacks because he will be unable to appear in court to answer them.
Bin Laden was indicted back in 1998 in the Southern District of New York for his role in the al Qaeda attack on the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed more than 200 people, including a dozen Americans. Several superseding indictments in the same federal jurisdiction piled on more charges.
On Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Lewin presented a formal recommendation to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara that Bin Laden not be prosecuted on any of the charges, given that he is dead.
After reciting Bin Laden's multiple aliases and then listing the counts against him for ten pages, Lewin notes, "On or about May 1, 2011, while this case was still pending, defendant Usama Bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the course of an operation conducted by the United States."
Lewin then provides evidence that bin Laden was actually killed in the raid, including the confirmation of his identity by DNA analysis and facial recognition analysis, eyewitness confirmation by one of bin Laden's wives, video of bin Laden found in the Abbottabad compound and the "significant quantity" of other al Qaeda material seized by U.S. Navy Seals during last month's raid.
He also notes that "al Qaeda has itself publicly acknowledged the death of BIN LADEN. Among other pronouncements, a recently released video depicts senior al Qaeda leader and co-defendant Ayman al Zawahiri acknowledging bin Laden's death."
A judge signed the order today, formally dropping the charges and closing the case after 13 years. A spokesperson for the Southern District of New York declined comment.