A Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up an international flight near Detroit on Christmas Day is returning to court for the first time since January, following disclosures that his lawyers have talked to prosecutors several times about a plea deal.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds was expected to set a trial date today, eight months after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arraigned on six charges, including the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
Passengers who saw flames pounced on Abdulmutallab, subdued him and forced him to the front of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit Metropolitan Airport last Dec. 25. Authorities say he was trying to set off explosives hidden in his underwear.
Abdulmutallab boarded the plane, which carried nearly 300 passengers, in Amsterdam after flying there from Nigeria.
In a court filing, defense lawyers last week said they had talked to prosecutors on “multiple occasions” about resolving the case. The U.S. attorney’s office has declined to comment.
Wayne State Professor Peter Henning told WWJ Newsradio 950 he won’t be surprised if a plea deal is reached.
“The government appears to have fairly strong evidence against him, so it would be in his interest if there’s any way he can get less than what would appear to be a likely life term in prison by cooperating, that would be in his interest,” Henning said.
However, Shama Chopra, who was on the plane, and husband Ray Chopra of Montreal, told The Associated Press in an e-mail, “Making a plea deal would send the wrong message. They have enough evidence to put Mr. Abdulmutallab in prison for life,” they said.
Abdulmutallab is being held at a federal prison in Milan, Mich., while awaiting trial. He has not appeared in court since Jan. 8.
U.S. investigators have said Abdulmutallab told them he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen. His father warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria that his son had drifted into extremism in Yemen, but that threat was never fully digested by the U.S. security apparatus.
Copyright, 2010. WWJ Newsradio 950/The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.