Underwear Bomber’s Sudden Plea: Legal Experts Weigh In
DETROIT (WWJ) - In Detroit’s federal court, the “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab changed his plea to guilty Wednesday to all eight charges he faced, including conspiracy to commit terrorism and attempted murder.
Why the sudden change of heart?
WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with Steven Fishman, a prominent Detroit defense attorney, who said he was surprised.
“Obviously he had been carrying on with whatever his defense was for all this time. He has a great lawyer, [standby attorney] Tony Chambers assigned to help him,” said Fishman.
“I don’t know if he was listening to Tony or not. If he was smart he was listening to him, but maybe he woke up this morning and said, you know, most people know what’s in their underwear, and said, well, maybe it’s time to end this charade,” said Fishman. “It’s the only thing I can figure.”
As to whether this was the best choice for the defendant, Fishman seems confident that it was.
“Well, unless his defense was insanity, you tell me,” Fishman said. “You’re on a plane with 200 people. You sit there, you try to light your drawers on fire, everybody sees it, and then you confess it to it, you tell me … what lawyer could win that case?”
Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and Wayne State University law professor said he was not shocked by the guilty plea.
“Given the strength of the government’s evidence that you had — both the physical evidence, the device he had on him, the eyewitness testimony and his statments that were admitted — there wasn’t much of a defense that he was going to be able to put on,” said Henning.
“This was going to be over. I was going to be a conviction I think,” he said.
WWJ spoke also with legal analyst Charlie Langton just as he was leaving the courthouse. Langton talked about what Abdulmutallab said to the judge as he entered his new plea.
“The reason for these crimes, he said, was because of the United State’s support of Israel and for the U.S. killing of innocent Muslims around the world,” Langton said.
“Mr. Abdulmutallab added that he was faithfully filling a religious obligation according to the Koran, and he called the bomb that he had on the airplane a blessed weapon,” Langton said, adding that Abdulmutallab said he may be guilty according to U.S. law, but not law by the Koran.
“Finally, Mr. Abdulmutallab warned that because of the blasphemy of Mohammad, God will strike the United States.”
Langton said that there was not much of a reaction in the courtroom, as everyone, including members of the media seemed stunned.
“It clearly looked like Mr. Abdulmutallab had the idea that he was going to plead guilty. Why he chose now, during trial, and not before, we don’t know,” said Langton.
Langton said it was a very well-written statement, read by Abdulmutallab, calmly and forcefully and in perfect English.
“Obviously a very misguided 24-year-old who, on the surface, had a lot going for him … a rich family and a lot of means to have good, but instead he became radicalized,” Langton said.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said there was no plea deal. (More on this, here).
Abdulmutallab is expected to be sentenced to life in prison on January 12.