A federal jury has found a suspected Libyan militant not guilty of the most serious charges stemming from the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
They convicted Ahmed Abu Khattala, 46, in the attack the night of September 11 at a US diplomatic mission that killed Stevens and State Department employee Sean Smith in a fire, and in a second attack that took place before dawn September 12 on a nearby Central Intelligence Agency annex, where Central Intelligence Agency contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty were killed by mortar strikes.
Jurors convicted Khattala on four counts, including providing material support for terrorism and destroying property and placing lives in jeopardy at the US compound, but acquitted him on 14 others.
The jury acquitted Abu Khattala of all but four of the 18 charges against him, finding him not guilty of the most serious charges, including murder.
He was facing multiple death penalty charges for the 2012 attack.
Sean was killed in the first attack, along with Ambassador Chris Stevens.
According to prosecutors, Khattala drove to the diplomatic mission with other militants and a group of about 20 breached the main gate and later launched an attack with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons.
USA commandos captured Khatallah overnight June 14-15, 2014, after a Libyan informant who received a $7 million reward from the State and Defense Departments lured him into a trap at a beach house near Benghazi.
That initial attack killed Stevens and communications specialist Sean Smith and set the mission ablaze.
U.S. prosecutors said Khattala was at the scene in regular contact with the attackers via cellphone before, during and after the assault. They questioned the credibility of three Libyan witnesses who testified they saw or heard Abu Khattala take steps to plan, execute or claim responsibility for the attacks.
Before the trial began October 2, Abu Khattala's defense moved to toss his statements in military and Federal Bureau of Investigation custody, arguing the shipboard detention without a lawyer present violated his legal rights and that the circumstances were so coercive they negated his signed waivers to a right to an attorney and against self-incrimination.
Government witnesses also identified one of Khatallah's alleged associates, Mustafa al-Imam, on video surveillance footage from the night of the attacks. 'You have not heard that he fired the mortars'.
Jeffrey Robinson, a lawyer for Khattala, told the court: "He didn't shoot anyone". She suggested that the witnesses paid by the government with a "bag of cash" were not credible.
"She didn't care. I want her to go to jail", Pat said.
In the attack's immediate aftermath, then-president Barack Obama and his administration officials, said initially that the attack was a spontaneous protest against an anti-Muslim video that had surfaced in the United States.
Most physical evidence burned to the ground or was destroyed or looted, and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were given only eight hours, three weeks after the attacks, to access both sites, one testified. Evidence also emerged that soon after the attack, the United States had strong reason to believe that organized militant groups had been involved.
The new US indictment alleges Khatallah had been the commander of an militant Islamist militia called Ubaydah bin Jarrah.
Al-Imam will be prosecuted by the same attorneys who handled the Khatallah case: Assistant U.S. Attorney's John Crabb, Michael DiLorenzo, Opher Shweiki and Julieanne Himelstein.