Accused airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab fired his court-appointed lawyers on Monday and asked a U.S. judge about the process for him to plead guilty to some of the charges against him.
In his first court appearance since January, Abdulmutallab said he did not believe his lawyers were serving his best interest and asked U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds to let him represent himself.
Edmunds strongly urged him not to fire his lawyers, but agreed to allow Abdulmutallab’s request and will appoint new lawyers to act as consultants to him.
“If I want to plead guilty to some counts, how would that work?” Abdulmutallab asked Edmunds toward the end of the 15-minute court appearance. She told him that standby counsel would be available to answer that type of question.
Abdulmutallab was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and five other offenses, charges that could lead to life in prison if convicted, for trying to down an airliner as it approached Detroit last Christmas Day.
He has been cooperating with U.S. investigators for several months. The failed attack led to further efforts by the Obama administration to strengthen U.S. airline security.
The Nigerian man linked to al Qaeda tried to ignite explosives sewn into his underwear on the Northwest Airlines Airbus A330 jet after a long flight from Amsterdam, but he was subdued by passengers and crew members and the fire was contained.
Abdulmutallab suffered severe burns but the bomb failed to detonate. He told investigators he was given the explosive by al Qaeda operatives in Yemen and had trained there.
In a court filing ahead of his appearance, Abdulmutallab’s attorneys said they had met in person and by phone “on multiple occasions with government counsel to discuss options for resolution of the case.”
The case is USA v Abdulmutallab, 2:10-cr-20005, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.