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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moussaoui Sentenced to Life in Jail

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia -- Zacarias Moussaoui claimed victory over America after a jury rejected the U.S. government's effort to put the Sept. 11 conspirator to death and instead decided to lock him away in prison for the rest of his life.

Moussaoui, who spent much of his two-month trial cursing America, blessing al-Qaida and mocking the suffering of Sept. 11 victims, offered one more taunt after the jury reached its verdict Wednesday: "America, you lost. ... I won," he proclaimed, clapping his hands as he was escorted from the courtroom.

Moussaoui will be sent to a super-maximum federal prison in Colorado under special conditions that will prevent him from having any contact with the outside world.

After seven days of deliberation, the nine men and three women rebuffed the government's appeal for death for the only person charged in the United States in the suicide hijackings of four commercial jetliners that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

From the White House, U.S. President George W. Bush said the verdict "represents the end of this case, but not an end to the fight against terror." He said Moussaoui got a fair trial and that the jury spared his life, "which is something that he evidently wasn't willing to do for innocent American citizens."

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, attending a European Union security conference in Vienna, told reporters Thursday: "There are challenges that exist with respect to prosecuting terrorist cases in our system. I think justice was served in this case."

Families of Sept. 11 victims expressed mixed views. Carie Lemack, whose mother, Judy Larocque, died on hijacked American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into New York's World Trade Center, said her mother did not believe in the death penalty and would have been glad Moussaoui was sentenced to life. "This man was an al-Qaida wannabe ... who deserves to rot in jail."

Patricia Reilly, who lost her sister Lorraine Lee in the New York attacks, was deflated. "I guess in this country you can kill 3,000 people and not pay with your life," she said. "I feel very much let down by this country."

It is not known how many jurors wanted Moussaoui sentenced to life and how many wanted a death sentence. Under federal law, a defendant automatically receives life in prison when a jury is split. The 42-page verdict form gives no indication on how, or if, the jury split.

Defense lawyer Gerald Zerkin said outside court that "it was obvious that they thought his role in 9/11 was not very great, and that played a significant role in their decision."

Prosecutors declared themselves satisfied with the jury's verdict.

"It only takes one juror to reject imposition of the death penalty, and we respect that," said Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, who was chief prosecutor in Alexandria in December 2001 when Moussaoui was first charged.

When the verdict was announced, Moussaoui showed no visible reaction and sat slouched in his chair, refusing to stand with his defense team.

The verdict was received with silence in the packed courtroom, where one row was lined with victims' families.