will be court martialed August 20
A military judge at Fort Hood Tuesday heard arguments on a request by alleged gunman Maj. Nidal Hasan to delay his scheduled court martial until December, but Hasan wasn't in the courtroom to hear the arguments.
That's because the Army psychiatrist appeared in court wearing a full beard, in violation of Army grooming policy, and Col. Gregory Gross, the military judge overseeing the proceeding, immediately ordered him removed from the courtroom, despite claims by Lt. Col. Chris Poppe, Hasan's military counsel, that the beard was grown for 'sincere religious reasons.'
Hasan is facing court martial on 13 specifications of premeditated murder and 31 specifications of premeditated attempted murder, in connection with a shooting rampage at the sprawling central Texas Army post in November of 2009.
Gross ordered Hasan, who appeared in court in a wheelchair due to injuries he suffered when he was shot four times by Ft. Hood civilian security personnel to end the rampage, to be wheeled to a trailer set up outside the courtroom building, which was equipped with a closed circuit audio and video hookup. He said Hasan will continue to be excluded from the courtroom, even during his trial, if he continues to 'disrupt the court' by wearing a beard.
Army Regulation 670-1 states 'males will keep their face clean shaven when in uniform or in civilian clothing on duty.' Gross warned Hasan to shave his beard at a hearing earlier this month, and he could file charges of violating a lawful order against the major, who is already facing the potential death penalty if he is convicted of the murders.
Poppe said he will appeal Gross's ruling forbidding Hasan from wearing a beard in the courtroom to the Army Court of Appeals on he grounds of religious accommodation.
"Hasan is required to comply with all military regulations regarding grooming as he is still on active duty and receives full pay and benefits," retired Lt. Col. Jeffrey Addicott, the long time legal adviser to the U.S. Special Forces told 1200 WOAI news. "He is using the courtroom as a stage to promote radical Islamic ideas. Wearing the beard is only the beginning of his future tactics to gain media attention.
Addicott says Hasan is 'playing the religion card' by continuing to wear a beard.
Gross granted a defense request that Hasan undergo testing by a neurologist, a move which is likely to require that Hasan be transferred from his specially built hospital cell at the Bell County Jail, about 15 miles from Ft. Hood, to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
Gross will rule next week on a defense request to delay the start of the court martial until December, on the grounds that Poppe needs more time to study prosecutors' evidence and interview witnesses. Poppe also asked permission to interview the commanding general of the Army corps stationed at Fort Hood and his chief legal adviser, and for permission to see the documents prosecutors plan to use during jury selection. Gross will rule on that request next week as well.