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Christopher ‘Casey’ Cooper ’88: Benghazi on trial

Even before Christopher “Casey” Cooper ’88's formal investiture as a federal judge this week, he landed the kind of case many jurists never get: a high-profile terrorism trial.

By random assignment, Cooper—confirmed in March as a US District Judge in Washington, DC—will preside over the trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, accused of leading the 2012 attacks on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed a US ambassador and others.

Khattala, who entered a not-guilty plea last month, made his first appearance before Cooper on July 8 in a “packed courtroom,” with a “bomb-sniffing dog just outside the door and the deputy U.S. marshals patrolling the perimeter of the courthouse wielding AR-15s,” the Huffington Post reports.

“From here on out, you are stuck with me,” Cooper told the defendant, according to the Huffington Post.

But it will be a while before they see each other again: prosecutors, arguing that their case is complex and involves witnesses from overseas, asked that Cooper delay the next status conference until September. The judge agreed.

While he’s a “rookie judge,” Cooper is a no stranger to the DC legal and political scene, the Washington Post notes. Among other connections, he served on the Obama administration’s transition team. His Yale roommate was John Rice ’88, whose sister, then-UN ambassador (and now national security advisor) Susan Rice, was a focus of controversy after the Benghazi attacks. And Cooper’s wife, Amy Jeffress ’92JD, formerly “ran the national security section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office that has charged Khattala, and mentored the lead prosecutor on the case,” the Post says.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Christopher Cooper, terrorism
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