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Judge fines Fort Hood suspect for beard, denies trial delay

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times –

HOUSTON — A military judge refused to delay the trial of an Army psychiatrist charged in the deadly Fort Hood shooting, fining him for refusing to shave and allowing a controversial terrorism expert to testify at the court martial expected to start Monday.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in connection with the November 2009 attack at the Army base in Texas. Selection of the military trial panel, as the jury is known, is scheduled to begin Monday and could take at least a week.

If convicted, Hasan could face the death penalty.

The military judge had twice agreed to delay Hasan’s trial, originally set to begin in March. But on Tuesday he refused the latest defense request for a postponement until Oct. 9, according to a statement released by the Fort Hood base public affairs office.

The defense lawyers had said they needed more time to interview witnesses and review 26 boxes of documents, including thousands of pages of Hasan’s medical records and jail logs.

The military judge, Col. Gregory Gross, also denied a defense request Tuesday to exclude the testimony of one of the government’s experts, Evan Kohlmann, a New York-based consultant who has testified for the government in more than two dozen terrorism cases. Kohlmann testified at a pretrial hearing that Hasan met the definition of a home-grown terrorist.

The military judge held Hasan in contempt of court and fined him $1,000 for “failure to be clean-shaven,” according to the statement.

The judge had previously noted that Hasan’s beard violates Army grooming requirements and warned Hasan that if he didn’t shave, he would be held in contempt, fined, removed from court, forced to watch the proceedings via closed-circuit television and might even be forcibly shaved if he refused to get rid of the beard before trial.

Hasan watched Tuesday’s proceedings from another room via closed-circuit television, as he’s done since he first appeared in court with a beard in June.

Gross ordered Hasan to return to court at 1 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. Thursday so the judge could address additional pretrial issues and Hasan could enter his pleas to the charges.

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