Monday, October 10, 2011

Plea deal possible in Muslim GI's Killeen terror case

As a trial looms for a Muslim GI accused of plotting a terror attack in Killeen, attorneys say there are indications lawyers are working out a plea deal.

A deadline for filing a plea agreement in the case against Pfc. Naser J. Abdo was moved from Oct. 3 to Tuesday. Veteran attorneys say that's a sure sign a plea bargain is in the works, and that it makes sense for both sides.

"What it tells me is that the government and the defense lawyers are telling (the judge) they're working on it, but they need more time," said Geoffrey Corn, a professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston who specializes in criminal, military and national-security cases.

"I'm sure that the defense counsel wants to do a plea bargain because obviously there's an abundance of evidence," said Jeffrey Addicott, who heads the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio.

Held without bail

Abdo has been held without bail since being indicted Aug. 9 on federal charges of possessing an unregistered destructive device, and possessing a firearm and ammunition by a fugitive.

A Fort Campbell, Ky., infantryman who cited his Islamic faith in refusing to fight on Muslim soil, he could get up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. Jury selection on the federal weapons charges is to begin Oct. 17, but prosecutors and Abdo's attorney, D. Keith Dorsett, have until Tuesday to submit a plea bargain to U.S. District Judge Walter Smith.

The deadline is not absolute, said Corn and Calvin Lewis, an associate dean at the Texas Tech University School of Law, and a plea deal could be struck even after the trial begins. But requiring a deal by a firm date, called local rules of procedure, brings efficiency to the court process.

Treece convinced

"The defendant could go into the court on the morning of the trial and say, 'I want to enter a plea of guilty,' " Corn said, "but the judge can be less favorably inclined to support the prosecution's recommendation."

Dorsett didn't comment when asked recently about the proceedings, and Texas Tech's Lewis wasn't sure an agreement was likely, arguing "it doesn't take a week to put a deal together."

But T. Gerald Treece, vice president, associate dean and special counsel to the president at South Texas College of Law, said the signs point to a deal.

By Sig Christenson, Staff Writer

Source: Houston Chronicle

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