Underwear bomber surprises with sudden guilty plea
By Rizwan Khatik - Thu Oct 13, 4:36 am
After a brief recess on the second day of the trial, the Nigerian, who was charged with trying to detonate a Detroit-bound jetliner carrying more than 300 people on Christmas Day 2009, entered guilty pleas on all eight counts.
The plot was foiled when passengers and crew members overcame the suspect, who suffered burns to his genitals and legs in the incident.
Abdulmutallab, 25, read in fluent English a lengthy statement saying he was guilty under U.S. law but not under Islamic law. He said he tried to carry out the bombing in retaliation for the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere by the United States.
He said committing jihad against the United States is one of “the most virtuous acts” a Muslim can perform and warned that if the U.S. continued to murder innocent Muslims, a calamity would befall the country.
“If you laugh at us now, we will laugh at you later,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds set sentencing for Jan. 12. Abdulmutallab faces a mandatory 30 years in prison, but could get life for some of the charges, which include conspiring to commit terrorism and using a weapon of mass destruction.
Prosecutors had plenty of evidence to convict him: a planeload of witnesses, burns on the suspect, remnants of his underwear and the bomb — and his numerous statements to passengers, flight crew and federal agents that he was on a mission from al-Qaeda. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel laid it all out to the jury Tuesday.
“Today’s plea removes any doubt that our courts are one of the most effective tools we have to fight terrorism and keep the American people safe,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
Tukel said he didn’t see the guilty plea coming. “I was very surprised,” he said. However, he noted, “We ended up with the same result that we would have at trial.”
As for Abdulmutallab’s admissions and anti-U.S. comments, Tukel would say only, “It’s what I would have expected from a terrorist.”
Anthony Chambers, standby counsel to Abdulmutallab, who was technically representing himself, said he was disappointed his client decided to plead guilty.
“I would never, ever advise a client to plead guilty to life without parole — under any circumstances,” Chambers said. “He made the decision against our advice.”
Passenger Dimitrous Bessis was relieved that Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty. He was scheduled to testify, as he was among the first passengers who tried to put out the fire. Bessis was seated two rows behind Abdulmutallab. When he saw the fire, he rushed over to Abdulmutallab’s seat, and tried to put it out with a Brooks Brothers hat his father had given him.
“He got everyone frantic,” Bessis recalled. “He put fear in children and mothers.”