A soldier charged with planning to blow up a restaurant filled with Fort Hood troops was appointed a new lawyer Thursday after telling a federal judge he disagreed with his previous defense team's strategies.
Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo's lead court-appointed attorney, Keith Dorsett, told U.S. District Judge Walter Smith during a brief hearing in Waco that his client had been uncooperative. Abdo, who was handcuffed and wearing a striped jail jumpsuit, then approached the lectern at Smith's request.
"I appreciate the efforts of these two gentlemen ... but I have a disagreement with the trial strategies and what not," Abdo said, referring to his attorneys.
Abdo told the judge that his request shouldn't delay his trial, set for Jan. 23, but Smith said he would make that determination later. After the hearing, U.S. Attorney Mark Frazier said he expected Abdo's trial to last several days but declined to discuss specifics about the case.
Abdo faces up to life in prison if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and eight other charges.
He was arrested in July at a Killeen motel a few miles from the Texas Army post. Authorities say they found a handgun, an article entitled "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom," and the ingredients for an explosive device, including gunpowder, shrapnel and pressure cookers in his room and backpack. An article with that title appears in an al-Qaida magazine.
Abdo told authorities he planned to make two bombs and detonate them in a restaurant frequented by Fort Hood soldiers and shoot the survivors, according to documents filed in the case.
The soldier's composed demeanor Thursday was in stark contrast to how he acted at a hearing last month, when he tossed a rolled-up paper toward courtroom seats and said "press release" before his attorney quickly grabbed it. He had pleaded not guilty after answering "sure do" when U.S. Magistrate Jeff Manske asked if he understood the six new charges against him _ in addition to his federal indictment on three charges in August _ and said "sure do have none" when asked if he had questions.
Last month, Abdo said he originally planned an attack on his home post of Fort Campbell, Ky. In a telephone interview with WSMV-TV in Nashville, Tenn., Abdo said he planned to kidnap and then videotape the "execution" of a high-ranking official in his chain of command "who participated in the Afghan mission." He did not identify that official.
Abdo said he bought a cattle prod, handcuffs and shovels for his Fort Campbell plan, but when military police learned he was visiting nearby gun stores, he decided to go AWOL. That happened more than a month after he was charged with possessing child pornography, which also caused his conscientious objector status to be put on hold, officials have said.