DETROIT – A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a competency hearing isn't necessary for a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner, denying a request from the man she hired to help the defendant.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said in a Detroit courtroom that she believes Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is competent as an Oct. 4 trial date approaches. The hearing was requested by Anthony Chambers, a respected defense attorney she brought on to assist Abdulmutallab after the defendant dismissed his court-appointed lawyers last year and opted to represent himself.
"I have not had any reason to question his competence to move forward in his case," Edmunds said.
Abdulmutallab told the judge he understands the charges and the life prison sentence he faces if convicted.
"I believe I'm competent to proceed by myself," said Abdulmutallab, standing at his defense table in a black skull cap and khaki prison uniform.
Chambers, who is referred to as Abdulmutallab's standby counsel, said after the hearing that it was important for Edmunds to consider his request. But the lawyer declined to elaborate on whether he believes Abdulmutallab is competent.
Chambers said during the hearing that Abdulmutallab has agreed to all of Chambers' filings in the case except for the competency hearing request.
Abdulmutallab described Chambers as "decent" when the judge asked him whether he was satisfied with his standby counsel.
"I'm not 100 percent satisfied but ... that's just the way it's going to go," he said.
Abdulmutallab, 24, is charged with trying to ignite explosives in his underwear on a Christmas 2009 flight from Amsterdam to Detroit that had nearly 300 people aboard. Passengers pounced on him and put out the flames.
U.S. investigators believe he received flight training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen beginning in August 2008. Law enforcement officials say Abdulmutallab tried to ignite a concoction of highly explosive PETN and possibly a glycol-based liquid explosive. It set off popping sounds, smoke and some fire but didn't detonate.
The plane safely landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Abdulmutallab is being held without bond at a federal prison in Milan, Mich. In court Wednesday, he asked if he could receive a radio in prison and publications including Time, The Economist and Al Jumuah, an Islamic magazine. He said other inmates have radios.
He also requested copies of two news documentaries, CBS News' "Yemen and the War on Terror" and the BBC's "How Safe Are Our Skies?"
Chambers said prison officials will not allow Abdulmutallab to have the items. Edmunds said Abdulmutallab should have access to whatever is generally available to other prisoners.
Earlier this month, Abdulmutallab accused U.S. agents of refusing to read him his Miranda rights and interrogating him while he was sedated and recovering from major burns soon after his arrest. He wants Edmunds to throw out statements he made at University of Michigan hospital.
Abdulmutallab also requested in court filings this month that his trial be moved out of Michigan because of what he referred to as the public's "overall hostility" toward him.
Edmunds said those and other motions would be considered on Sept. 14, the same day jury selection is set to begin. She said the court will call 250 prospective jurors to answer a form containing more than 100 questions, with the goal of seating 12 jurors and four alternates.
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