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A Question of Life or Death

Vienna resident who lost his son on 9/11 comments on the Moussaoui sentencing.

The six life terms that were handed down to Zacarias Moussaoui last Thursday, without possibility of parole, were not enough to satisfy Vienna resident Bill McGinly, whose son Mark was killed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Moussaoui, the only person in the U.S. to be tried in relation to the attack, was facing six conspiracy charges.

"If someone like that doesn't deserve the death penalty, I don't know who does," said McGinly, who had been to the courtroom in Alexandria about half a dozen times to witness the proceedings.

Moussaoui's testimony as to his own involvement in the attack varied widely over the course of the four-year trial, but his proclaimed contempt for the U.S. and glorification of terrorism were unwavering.

"I never was that close to anyone who was so hateful and spiteful and, I want to say, ignorant as well," said McGinly.

The jury did not recommend the death penalty, as some jurors questioned Moussaoui's knowledge of and involvement with the 9/11 attacks.

"He clearly advocates overthrowing the government and killing as many U.S. citizens as possible," McGinly said. He commended the prosecution for extracting guilty pleas on all six counts but criticized the judge, Leonie Brinkema, for saying the prosecution was "overdoing it" with testimony from victims' family members like himself and lamented the loss of witnesses resulting from the discovery that many of them had been coached by an attorney from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"That was pretty inept," he said. "I hope she gets in a lot of trouble."

He said he believed the case for the death penalty would have been considerably stronger if the witnesses had not been lost. "I have a feeling the jury just looked at this guy and thought, 'He's disturbed, he's not very smart,'" said McGinley, adding that the terrorists who carry out suicide attacks are not likely to be masterminds.

He said he and his wife, Patty, are divided on the sentence, with her of the mind that "it's better to let him rot in prison. But I don't buy that."

He questioned the image of the country that this sentence projected, saying, "I think people around the world kind of laugh at us and the things we do," and added, "This guy's going to live out his life in a better situation than he's ever been in in his life," citing the food, water, electricity and health care that will be provided to Moussaoui in prison. McGinly said that from what he knew of Moussaoui, although he was a French citizen, he had previously had nothing but what little al Qaeda gave him.

As for the possibility of a death sentence granting Moussaoui the martyrdom he may have come to the U.S. seeking, McGinly said, "I say put him to death, and he's going to be disappointed to find out there is no martyrdom and there are no 72 virgins." He added that those who might have painted Moussaoui as a martyr had he been put to death "are always going to use propaganda either way."

He concluded, "There are a lot of people in this world that have done lesser things and been executed. I don't see how they could have missed this one."

MARK RYAN MCGINLY, 26, was in his office on the 92nd floor of the World Trade Center the morning of the attacks. He led a crew of three or four in the business of futures trading of precious industrial metals for a company called Carr Futures, said his father. He had been drawn to New York and the stock market because "he always had enjoyed a good challenge, and he liked risky things," said the older McGinly, adding that his son had also sought an opportunity to make good money.

At James Madison High School, Mark McGinly was an avid athlete, playing basketball and golf every year. His senior year, he was captain of the golf team, which was the state champion for three of his four years. At Bucknell University, where he majored in business, he continued playing golf and was again the captain of the golf team in his senior year.

On the day that McGinly was killed, "all he did was go to work," said his father. "He was doing what he was supposed to do."

The McGinlys have started a foundation in his name that awards scholarships to Northern Virginia students who "best represent the characteristics that were so apparent in Mark," according to the Mark McGinly Scholarship Foundation Web site. Each year, a scholarship is granted to "a good kid who is also a good student and an accomplished athlete."

The foundation is funded in part by the annual Mark R. McGinly Scholarship Golf Classic, Dinner and Auction, which will be held again on Sept. 18 at the Westwood Country Club in Vienna.

— By Mike DiCicco