The request came as U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan was setting deadlines for lawyers to submit pretrial arguments regarding Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former al-Qaida spokesman who pleaded not guilty March 8 to charges of conspiring to kill Americans.
Defense attorney Martin Cohen said the three federal public defenders working on Ghaith's case would be required by the $85 billion in across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration to take 5 1/2-week furloughs through the end of September, when the federal fiscal year ends.
Kaplan had been discussing starting the trial in September.
"It's extremely troublesome to contemplate the possibility of a case of this nature being delayed because of sequestration," Kaplan said.
"Let me say only that," he said, then added, "Stunning."
Kaplan didn't set a trial date, saying he would consider the defenders' delay request, but indicated the trial now might not begin until January 2014, the New York Daily News reported.
In seeking the delay, defense lawyers also cited a need for overseas investigation, translation of voluminous materials and other issues.
The lawyers also told Kaplan they would likely ask for a change of venue since the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan is near the World Trade Center complex and New York City received the greatest loss from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The charges against Ghaith, who is 47 and married to bin Laden daughter Fatima, could result in life imprisonment if he is found guilty.
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