ARLINGTON, Va. – Zacarias Moussaoui walked out of a federal courthouse in Arlington, Virginia today as a free man after a federal judge overturned a 2006 conviction by a federal jury alleging he conspired to kill U.S. citizens as part of the September 11 terror attacks.
Moussaoui, who until Monday, was serving six life sentences in the Federal ADX Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, was deemed “fit to return to society” by presiding Judge Joseph Warrick after Moussaoui’s legal team successfully argued he’d suffered from a mental illness during his time with al Qaeda.
“Mr. Moussaui was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007 after undergoing a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation,” an attorney for Mr. Moussaoui said. “Since then Mr. Moussaoui has been under psychiatric care while receiving treatment for his disorder.”
Clinical psychiatrist Doctor Mort S. Friedman, who oversaw Moussaoui during his time in the Supermax prison and testified on his patient’s behalf, said individuals who suffer from untreated mental illness, particularly bipolar or dissociative identity disorders, “are incapable of rational thought and therefore cannot be held accountable for their actions.”
In his decision to overturn Moussaoui’s conviction, Judge Warrick cited “overwhelming public opinion” that untreated mental illness is the likely cause for mass violence rather than criminal intent, access to firearms, or terrorism. “Individuals who struggle with untreated mental illness due to unfortunate but natural imbalances in their chemical makeup are not criminals but victims in their own right. These people should not be punished with imprisonment; rather they should be provided sufficient access to medical and psychological treatment.”
Judge Warrick called Moussaoui’s journey to freedom a “rare success story” following Moussaoui’s own testimony to the court in which the French citizen said that thanks to the treatment he’d received while in federal prison, his “mind is clear for the first time in many years.”
A spokesman for Moussaoui’s defense team said that after leaving the federal courthouse, the 47 year-old left for Newark, New Jersey where he plans to live and work while pursuing a degree in chemical engineering. The spokesman did not elaborate on Moussaoui’s living situation other than to say he “wanted to be close to the airport so he can watch the planes.”