Shoe-bomb suspect to plead guilty

By DAVE HASKELL  |  Oct. 3, 2002 at 9:21 AM
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BOSTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- A federal judge scheduled a Friday hearing into accused shoebomber Richard Reid's offer to plead guilty to an indictment charging him with trying to blow up a Paris-to-Miami American Airlines jetliner over the Atlantic last Dec. 22.

While a defense motion asks the judge to delete all references in the indictment to Reid's alleged link to Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network, the British national was expected to go forward with his plea change even if Chief U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young turns down that request.

U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan said the government is opposed to dropping references to al Qaida -- the network of militants that the United States says is responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- and said prosecutors have the evidence to back up their allegation he received training at al Qaida camps in Afghanistan.

"I want to make it clear there is no deal or bargain that has led to" Reid's decision to plead guilty, Sullivan said late Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft echoed that position in Washington, saying the Justice Department "has not entered into any plea agreement with Reid."

Ashcroft said the government "stands by each and every allegation in the indictment" and is ready to "substantiate all of the charges" at Friday's hearing.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said in May he believed the explosives in Reid's shoes were the work of "an al Qaida bomb maker."

Reid, 29, a British national who converted to Islam, has agreed to plead guilty to all eight counts in the federal indictment, his federal defenders said.

He faces from 60 years to life for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, attempted homicide, placing an explosive device on an aircraft, attempted murder, interference with flight crew, attempted destruction of an aircraft, and using a destructive device during a crime of violence.

Reid, a petty criminal in England, has been charged with attempting to kill all 196 people on board American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami last Dec. 22.

The flight was diverted to Boston after crewmembers and passengers struggled with Reid as he allegedly tried to light a match to explosives hidden in his footwear.

Reid was restrained, sedated, and taken off the plane in Boston, where his trial was scheduled to start Nov. 4.

In the defense motion filed Wednesday, court-appointed defense attorneys Tamar Birckhead and Owen Walker said Reid "has no disagreement with the facts asserted in the charges as to his actions on Dec. 22, 2001."

The attorneys said Reid wants to avoid the publicity associated with a trial and the affect it is likely to have upon his family.

In documents filed in the case, prosecutors said Reid wrote incriminating e-mail messages addressed to his mother before he boarded the flight in Paris.

Seized by the FBI, one e-mail read, "What I am doing is part of the ongoing war between Islaam (sic) and disbelief." He said he saw it as "a duty upon me to help remove the oppressive American forces from the Muslim land and that this is the only way for us to do so as we do not have other means to fight them."

A government memorandum said Reid had told investigators after his arrest that he chose an American target after the United States began bombing the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The memorandum said Reid believed an attack on an airplane during the holiday season "would cause the American public to lose confidence in airline security and stop traveling, leading to a substantial loss of revenue which would, in turn, hurt the American economy."

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