Underpants Bomber Fires Attorneys, Wants to Represent Himself

Really bad move by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Detroit underpants bomber. He fired his public defenders today and told the court he will represent himself. The Court will appoint stand-by counsel.

Is he taking a page from the Zacarias Moussaoui playbook? If so, he should know it didn't work out too well for Moussaoui, who is serving life in prison.

Abdulmutallab asked the judge if he could plead guilty to just some counts. The answer, of course, is "no" (absent government agreement.) And aside from the issue of guilt, there's the issue of sentencing. Federal sentencing requires professionals to navigate the guidelines and advocate for a below-guidelines or non-guideline sentence. No way will he be able to effectively do that himself. [More...]

Will the DOJ take pity on him and offer him a downward departure for his early confession/cooperation? While they may ask he be given something for his cooperation, it's unlikely to be significant, particularly if he insists on going to trial.

The Judge should order an independent counsel to consult with him before granting his request and explain the ramifications of his decision. If he doesn't trust his attorneys, he's not going to listen to them. But he might listen to a neutral defense lawyer who can clear up his misperceptions about the system.

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  • Display: Sort:
    With his history of bungling simple briefs ... ? (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by Ellie on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 08:18:32 PM EST
    ... you'd think he'd learned his lesson by now.

    Oooooh! (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by gyrfalcon on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 09:11:20 PM EST
    Bad Ellie!  Bad, bad Ellie!

    That's a good'un! (none / 0) (#3)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Sep 13, 2010 at 10:15:42 PM EST
    I took to heart (none / 0) (#4)
    by lentinel on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 04:22:12 AM EST
    something you wrote about the number of people incarcerated who thought that if they just told their side of the story, without benefit of council, that everything would come out right.

    I am amazed that on a number of cop t.v. shows - like CSI - the suspected "perps" are more often than not shown to be spilling their guts to law enforcement with no lawyer - and without any "caution"  from the cops.

    More (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 10:36:19 AM EST
    From the Detroit News:

    Abdulmutallab's position is common in defendants unhappy with prosecutor's offers during plea bargain negotiations, said Margaret Raben, past president of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan. And trying to negotiate a plea deal or going to trial without a lawyer is extraordinarily difficult, she added.

    "You have a Constitutional right to make dreadful decisions for yourself, legal decisions that could have dreadful consequences for you," Raben said.

    "The government is in absolutely no position to want to negotiate or compromise here, unless the defendant has extraordinary information of international importance to exchange. He is charged with horrific crimes, and his idea of what may be a fair sentence might not be the U.S. attorney's idea of a fair sentence."

    Abdulmutallab said about the Federal Public Defenders team that has represented him for eight months, "They have spent the time in, I guess, yeah, what they believe is in my best interest, but not what I believe is in my best interest."

    Miriam Siefer, head of the federal defender's office in Detroit, declined to comment after the hearing, but told the judge she planned to file a report with the court. Raben said the contents of the report will likely be held in confidence by the judge.

    Lawyers and federal prosecutors had planned Monday to discuss pretrial issues and perhaps get a trial date from the judge. The defendant's request to personally attend the session stirred speculation about a possible plea deal.

    Filings by Abdulmutallab's attorneys last week indicated plea-bargain talks were ongoing for the man who federal authorities have said is cooperating and has provided "actionable information" about other potential terrorist activities overseas.

    "My guess is he wants to plead guilty to an offense with a 10-year maximum and the government has said no," Raben said. "They want at least 20, maybe 40, maybe more. The basic error here is common in defendants: That he thinks he's in a position to dictate negotiations."