Things had been looking up for Sheik Mohammed Ali Hasan al-Moayad as he approached his trial on charges of supporting terrorist groups Hamas and al-Qaida.
The government's star witness set himself on fire in a bizarre protest outside the White House. A judge limited some of the evidence that prosecutors said linked the Yemeni sheik to Osama bin Laden.
And prosecutors had begun their case relying on hours of secretly recorded Arabic conversations that were hard to understand even in translation.
But those tapes proved surprisingly damaging this past week as jurors in federal court heard the defendants speak in familiar terms about men prosecutors call some of the world's most dangerous terrorists. The tapes close with al-Moayad's prayer for the deaths of Jews and Americans: "Dear God, strike them with earthquakes, put them in their coffins, abandon them and defeat them."
Al-Moayad and his assistant, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, also spoke about code names for weaponry and false names for bank accounts.
As the trial's first week ended, lawyers for both defendants said it would be difficult to overcome the bad impression.
"It's very hard for an American jury to overcome the emotion that's wrapped up in 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," al-Moayad's lawyer, William Goodman, said after the last recording was played for the jury.
"This is very disturbing stuff," acknowledged Zayed's lawyer, Jonathan Marks.
Al-Moayad is accused of providing material support for terrorism, as well as conspiring and attempting to provide material support. He could receive a 60-year prison sentence. Zayed faces the conspiracy and attempt charges and could serve 30 years behind bars...."
"Eventually, they said what the government agents wanted to hear," Goodman said.
Alanssi was dropped as a witness after burning himself outside a White House gate in November in what he called a protest against government mistreatment.
And U.S. District Judge Sterling Johnson Jr. excluded evidence allegedly linking al-Moayad to al-Qaida and Afghan training camps from the government's case, including a videotape that would have required supporting testimony from Alanssi.
But whatever optimism those events generated in the defense camp seemed muted after jurors heard al-Moayad and Zayed talking alone and at length about secretly executing the informants' wishes.
"He said Hamas, jihad or al-Qaida," Zayed said of the informant on one tape.
"Look, any organization, anything: Hamas, al-Qaida or whatever as long as it is for jihad," al-Moayad replied.
Al-Moayad closed the final meeting with a prayer: "Dear God, defeat the Jews the tyrants. Defeat the infidel Americans."