Judge: Underwear bomb suspect's words can be used

AP News
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Posted: Sep 15, 2011 2:06 PM
Judge: Underwear bomb suspect's words can be used

Incriminating statements by a Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a plane near Detroit can be used against him at trial, a judge said Thursday.

The decision bolsters the case against Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is charged with trying to destroy an aircraft flying from Amsterdam to Detroit using a bomb concealed in his underwear on Christmas 2009.

Abdulmutallab, 24, was not told he had the Miranda right to remain silent when the FBI interviewed him at the University of Michigan hospital where he was being treated for serious burns after the incident.

But U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, agreeing with the government, said there is a "national security exception" for investigators trying to quickly get information from crime suspects.

FBI agent Timothy Waters said Abdulmutallab explained how he became a radical follower of al-Qaida in Yemen and how the bomb was supposed to work.

Defense attorney Anthony Chambers said Abdulmutallab had already disclosed details to officers at the airport and deserved to have his Miranda rights explained at the hospital before the second interview with the FBI.

Chambers also objected to investigators interviewing Abdulmutallab after he had been treated with a powerful painkiller, Fentanyl, during treatment for his burns.

But the judge, quoting the testimony of witnesses, said Abdulmutallab showed no signs of "fuzziness" or confusion.

Waters testified Wednesday that he did not read Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights because he needed to know if other planes might be under similar attack that day.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade declined to comment on the judge's decision. In a Sept. 9 court filing, prosecutors said Abdulmutallab has refused to meet with them about the case, although he is acting as his own lawyer with assistance from Chambers.

"We will review our options and proceed accordingly," Chambers said after the hearing.

Abdulmutallab was among nearly 300 people aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Authorities say he went to the bathroom before returning to his seat and attempting to detonate a bomb under his clothes, just minutes before the plane's arrival at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. It caused a fire that was quickly extinguished by crew and passengers.

The government's evidence against Abdulmutallab includes eyewitness testimony, remnants of the explosive and his own words. He is charged with conspiracy to commit terrorism, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and other crimes.

Jury selection starts Oct. 4. A 33-page questionnaire filled out by potential jurors this week sought their views on al-Qaida, Muslims and a radical cleric wanted by U.S. authorities. Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamic cleric in Yemen who is linked to Abdulmutallab, is on a U.S. kill-or-capture list and his name likely will emerge at trial.