A federal prosecutor told jurors Thursday that they would see video of the day that four Americans were shot to death by pirates as the Navy tried to negotiate their release.
In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Samuels said the hostages, held captive for four days aboard their 58-foot sailboat Quest, were executed in a hail of gunfire at close range. The victims were Scott and Jean Adam, a California couple who owned the Quest, and Phyllis Patricia Macay and Robert Riggle, both of Seattle, who had joined them on the voyage.
Samuels said the three defendants – Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar – were among the more aggressive faction of the pirates. And he said they were the ones who did the shooting moments after one of the pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the American guided missile destroyer Sterett.
There were 19 pirates who boarded the sailboat Feb. 18, 2011, about 850 miles from Somalia.
Defense attorneys for the three men told jurors they would hear no evidence that proved their clients did the shooting. Larry Dash, Salad’s lawyer, said the common theme in what happened that day was chaos and confusion. Dash said Scott Adam repeatedly had communicated to the Navy to stay back as warships and a helicopter closed in on the Quest.
Dash said jurors would hear conflicting testimony from those who have pleaded guilty in the case. He said those witnesses hope to get lighter sentences by testifying.
James Ellenson, a lawyer for Abrar, said his client was a mechanic who had worked on the boat that the pirates took to sea and that he was forced to go with them. His client was not a Somali, not a pirate and not a shooter, he said.
If convicted, the three could face the death penalty. It took most of three days to select a jury. The trial is expected to continue through much of the summer.