An Illinois man accused of plotting to set off a bomb outside a bar in downtown Chicago as an act of jihad pleaded not guilty to federal charges stemming from an FBI sting operation.
Adel Daoud, 19, appeared today before U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman in Chicago. He was indicted on Sept. 20 on charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, which is punishable by life imprisonment, and attempting to damage or destroy a building with an explosive.
Asked by Coleman how he pleads, Daoud replied, “not guilty.”
A resident of Hillside, Illinois, 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of the city, Daoud has been in custody since his Sept. 14 arrest. Slightly built, with a mass of bushy black hair, he appeared in court wearing an orange, prison-issue uniform and shifted his weight from foot to foot as he stood before the judge and answered questions.
Daoud told Coleman he is a high school graduate who, while occasionally using an asthma medicine, has not been hospitalized or treated for psychiatric problems.
In the months before his arrest, Daoud allegedly told undercover agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he was interested in engaging in Islamic holy war in the U.S or elsewhere.
After being contacted by the FBI’s agents, Daoud expressed interest in carrying out an attack, Chicago Acting U.S. Attorney Gary Shapiro said last month. Daoud was arrested after trying to detonate a fake car bomb supplied to him by U.S. agents, prosecutors said.
“His convictions about the killing of Americans are dead-set,” Assistant U.S. Attorney William Ridgway told U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys at a Sept. 20 detention hearing.
Defense lawyer Thomas A. Durkin has said his client was the victim of a “set-up” by the undercover agents. After the hearing today, he told reporters his client is “a young kid,” and “incredibly naive.”
“I don’t think he believes this is happening to him,” Durkin said. Citing possible legal consequences, the lawyer declined to say whether his client truly understood the severity of the charges against him.
In court, Durkin sparred with Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Jonas about his right to attend a conference at which the government would disclose to the judge classified evidence it’s relying on in the case.
Durkin asserted he has previously received security clearance from the U.S. Justice Department.
Jonas countered that such clearance needed to be obtained on a case-by-case basis, a claim Durkin disputed.
“Classified material exists as part of the investigation,” prosecutors said yesterday in a court filing requesting the closed-door conference with the judge. “The disclosure of such material, however, would raise issues of national security.”
In papers filed in response to prosecutors’ request, Daoud’s defense lawyers said, “this is a simple case that will be litigated solely over the factual determination of whose idea it was to attempt to use the faux weapon of mass destruction created by the FBI; i.e., this 18-year-old defendant or the undercover FBI agent posing as a ‘half-Afghan’ terrorist following the fatwa of his purported foreign sheikh.”
Daoud’s parents, Ahmed and Mona, attended today’s proceedings, after which a visibly-unhappy Ahmed Daoud said, “he’s the best kid, not just because he’s my son.”
The case is U.S. v. Daoud, 12-cr-723, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).