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Shoebomber pleads guilty, faces life

By
DAVE HASKELL

BOSTON, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Alleged al Qaida terrorist Richard Colvin Reid pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges that he tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner with 197 passengers on board by igniting explosives in his footwear.

The admitted shoebomber, a British national, faces life in prison when sentenced Jan. 8 as the government's first successful prosecution of an alleged al Qaida member since the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks.

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On the witness stand at a change of plea hearing in U.S. District Court in Boston, Reid confessed to being a follower of the man the U.S. government blames for the attacks.

"I pledge to Osama bin Laden and am an enemy to your country," said Reid, 29, a petty criminal with a fifth-grade education who converted to Islam in London.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young asked Reid why he decided to change his plea to guilty.

"Because at the end of the day, I know I'd done the actions," Reid replied.

His attorneys previously said Reid wanted to save his family from the embarrassing ordeal of a lengthy trial.

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Young carefully questioned Reid on each of the eight counts against him, asking him if he understood the rights to a fair trial that he was giving up by changing his plea.

"If you plead guilty, all those rights go away," Young said. "Do you understand that?"

"Yup," Reid repeatedly answered, occasionally grinning as he sat in the witness chair.

Asked if he was satisfied with his federal public defenders, Reid said, "I do not agree with your system, so how can I be satisfied?"

He pleaded guilty at his own request to all counts in a federal indictment accusing him of attempting to use a "weapon of mass destruction" to murder American citizens, attempted murder, attempted destruction of an aircraft, placing an explosive device on an aircraft, interfering with a flight crew, and using a destructive device during "a crime of violence."

Reid objected to the wording in the last count, saying instead that he tried to use a destructive device "in an act of war."

Reid was arrested after he allegedly tried to use six matches to touch off explosives in his shoes while on American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami last Dec. 22. Quick-acting flight attendants and other passengers thwarted the attempt.

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The flight was diverted to Boston where he was arrested.

The guilty plea avoids a trial scheduled to begin Nov. 4.

Prosecutors said the decision to plead guilty was Reid's alone, and that there was no plea agreement with the government.

As part of the change of plea motion, Reid's attorneys asked that all references to Osama bin Laden's al Qaida network be deleted from the indictment.

"The motion to strike is denied," the judge said.

Young said the al Qaida issue can be brought up for consideration at the sentencing hearing, but that prosecutors did not have to present any evidence on the question at the plea hearing.

Prosecutors did read e-mail Reid sent just days before Flight 63 left Paris to back up their case against him.

"What I am doing is part of the ongoing war between Islaam (sic) and disbelief," he wrote to his mother. "I see 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."

In an e-mail to a friend, Reid bemoaned not being one of the terrorists aboard the planes during the Sept. 11 attacks.

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After his arrest, Reid told interrogators he wanted to strike back at America.

"America is the problem," he said according to court documents. "Without America there would be no Israel."

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