Bombing Suspect Enters Not Guilty Plea
DETROIT - Nigerian terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab stood mute to charges that he tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airline on Christmas Day during a four-minute arraignment Friday in U.S. District Court.
The suspect, 23, stood in court in khaki pants and a white T-shirt flanked by his lawyer, federal defender Miriam Siefer.
Magistrate Mark Randon repeatedly asked Abdulmatallab to ensure the suspect understood the proceedings and the charges against him and to ensure that his lawyer consented to his continued detention at a federal prison near Ann Arbor.
In a barely audible voice, he answered the magistrate's questions.
Among the questions asked by the magistrate was whether the suspect had taken any kind of medication in past 24 hours.
Abdulmutallab, who suffered severe burns to his body in his alleged effort to blow up the plane, answered that he had taken some pain pills, but he insisted that he nevertheless understood what was happening at the court hearing.
Abdulmutallab looked physically fit in his brief court appearance, though he walked with a slight limp.
After the questioning, Siefer said, "At this time, our client would stand mute."
She then asked Randon to enter not guilty pleas to all six counts.
He is accused of trying to detonate a weapon of mass destruction - a homemade bomb hidden in his underwear - to bring down Northwest Flight 253, from Amsterdam to Detroit, which contained nearly 300 passengers and crew members. If found guilty, he faces punishment up to life in prison plus 90 years, according to the federal charges.
The defense team is expected to file various motions to get documents and other evidence from the government to learn more about the case being built against Abdulmutallab.
Legal experts say that, given the reported admissions he made to people on the plane and to investigators on the ground in Detroit, his case is unlikely to go to trial.
Experts say the best he can hope for is that federal prosecutors agree to some sort of plea deal that might shorten his sentence in exchange for his willingness to fully cooperate in explaining his alleged terrorist training in Yemen and anything else he can pass on.
The U.S. federal courthouse in Detroit became ground zero in the nation's war on terror Friday as scores of demonstrators, gawkers and lawyers swarmed the building for Abdulmutallab's arraignment on charges of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
As bomb-sniffing dogs walked the corridors of the courthouse checking for explosives and security officers directed people through metal detectors at both entrances of the courthouse, prosecutors and defense lawyers readied themselves for what was expected to be a two- to three-minute arraignment of charges that 23-year-old Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national and self-professed al-Qaida operative, tried to detonate the homemade bomb - prosecutors call it a weapon of mass destruction - that was sewn into his underwear.
The bomb failed to bring down Northwest Flight 253 and none of the 280 people aboard the plane was injured, except for Abdulmutallab, who sustained burns.
Prior to the start of the hearing, Abdulmutallab's lawyer, Siefer and her defense team were in the courthouse conferring with Nigerian lawyers - one who flew in from Africa and the other who practices in the U.S. - who represent the family. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel and his prosecution team - Cathleen Corken and Michael Martin also were in the courthouse.