ABDULMUTALLAB PLEADS GUILTY ON ALL CHARGES
Accused 'underwear bomber' Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab surprised United States federal courtroom during the second day of his terrorism trial Wednesday by pleading guilty to all charges.
His plea to eight charges came after he returned from a 45-minute recess, ending the most high-profile terrorism case in the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The 25-year-old Nigerian and self-proclaimed al-Qaida operative faced up to life on the charges that include attempted murder, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and conspiracy to commit terrorism, for his attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.
Abdulmutallab said Wednesday he tried to bomb the plane in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel and to avenge the killing of Muslims in Middle East.
He said the bomb was a 'blessed weapon to save the lives of innocent Muslims.'
'Participation in jihad against the United States is considered among the most virtuous of deeds in Islam and is highly encouraged in the Quran,' Abdulmutallab told the judge, reading from a statement.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds earlier asked him if he wished to waive his right to a trial and plead guilty.
'That's right,' he said.
Edmunds asked Abdulmutallab how he would plead to one of the most serious charges, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, which is punishable by up to life in prison.
'Guilty,' Abdulmutallab said.
'And are you pleading because you believe you are guilty?' the judge asked him.
'Yes,' he answered.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel asked him if he carried an explosive device on board.
'If you say so,' Abdulmutallab said.
'You knew it was an explosive, correct?' Tukel asked him.
'Yes,' he answered.
'It was intended to explode?' Tukel asked him.
'Yes,' Abdulmutallab answered.
Abdulmutallab also ranted against the U.S. after pleading guilty.
'The United States should be warned,' he said. 'If the United States continues the blasphemy of Muhammad and the prophets and continues to support those who kill innocent Muslims, it should await a great calamity that will befall them at the hands of the mujahedeen soon or God will strike them directly with a great calamity soon. If you laugh at us now, we will laugh at you later in this life and at the day of judgment.'
Abdulmutallab will be sentenced at 2 p.m. Jan. 12 in federal court.
He shouted 'Allahu Akbar!' before being handcuffed and escorted out of the courtroom by a deputy U.S. Marshal.
Abdulmutallab's legal adviser, Anthony Chambers, said the Nigerian decided to plead guilty against the advice of counsel.
'It was based on his feelings,' Chambers said. 'We wanted to continue this trial. No lawyer worth his salt would advise his client to plead guilty to a crime that carries a life sentence.'
Chambers said Abdulmutallab told him Tuesday during a break in court proceedings that he wanted to plead guilty.
'I believe he is a misguided, impressionable young man, as many college students are,' Chambers said. 'And I think he had something he wanted to say.'
Chambers said he believes he could have won the case.
'I thought the evidence was lacking,' he said.
Lori Haskell of Newport, a passenger on the flight who sat seven rows behind Abdulmutallab, said she's glad the case is over 'because I've had to relive it.'
'Every time we're down here, I have flashbacks of my plane being on fire,' she said. 'Whether he's a pawn or not, he tried to kill 290 people, including me.'
Jurors declined to talk to the media about the case or the guilty plea.
The guilty plea marks a major victory against terrorism for the Justice Department, which was criticized by some for trying Abdulmutallab in civilian court instead of a military tribunal.
The plea was unexpected but ended a criminal trial filled with unexpected outbursts by Abdulmutallab, who exhibited defiant behavior, fired his legal team, mulled a guilty plea last year and opted to defend himself.
During court hearings, he propped a foot on the defense table and shouted al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki were alive.
On Wednesday, Abdulmutallab wore a dark sport coat and a long khaki-colored dashiki that flowed to his ankles - a more formal look than his dress for earlier hearings.
The prosecution opened the trial Tuesday by providing the most detailed and vivid narrative of the moments surrounding the terrorist attack. The incident exposed gaps in airport security after prosecutors say Abdulmutallab managed to board the flight from Amsterdam with the bomb, an act that led to stiffer security measures.
Abdulmutallab's guilty plea comes after being accused of hiding powerful explosives inside his underwear and trying to detonate a device on Christmas Day 2009 aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The bomb failed to detonate over Metro Detroit and some of the approximately 300 passengers and crew pounced on Abdulmutallab and extinguished the flames.