Man charged with trying to blow up Detroit-bound plane is returning to court; trial may be set

Monday, September 13, 2010

Trial date may be set in Detroit airline attack

DETROIT — A Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up an international flight near Detroit on Christmas is returning to court for the first time since January, following disclosures that his lawyers have talked to prosecutors several times about a plea deal.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds was expected to set a trial date Monday, eight months after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arraigned on six charges, including the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Passengers who saw flames pounced on Abdulmutallab, subdued him and forced him to the front of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit Metropolitan Airport last Dec. 25. Authorities say he was trying to set off explosives hidden in his underwear.

Abdulmutallab boarded the plane, which carried nearly 300 passengers, in Amsterdam after flying there from Nigeria.

In a court filing, defense lawyers last week said they had talked to prosecutors on “multiple occasions” about resolving the case. The U.S. attorney’s office has declined to comment.

“Making a plea deal would send the wrong message. … They have enough evidence to put Mr. Abdulmutallab in prison for life,” Shama Chopra, who was on the plane, and husband Ray Chopra of Montreal said in an e-mail.

Abdulmutallab is being held at a federal prison in Milan, Mich., while awaiting trial. He has not appeared in court since Jan. 8.

U.S. investigators have said Abdulmutallab told them he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen. His father warned the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria that his son had drifted into extremism in Yemen, but that threat was never fully digested by the U.S. security apparatus.

will not be displayed