A federal judge agreed to hear a special guilty plea Friday in the case of a suburban terror suspect feds say tried to blow up a Chicago bar.
With his parents sitting in the second row, U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said Adel Daoud, 25, and his team of lawyers have a right to present the Alford plea they entered. The plea means that prosecutors likely have enough evidence to convict him, but Daoud would be allowed to maintain his innocence.
Coleman also struck the Nov. 26 trial date, though the government and Daoud’s defense team will return to court that day. Her decision to hear evidence from Daoud’s team could be a step toward closing the six-year legal battle.
Thomas Durkin, one of Daoud’s lawyers, said his team is “delighted” with the judge’s ruling. In his 46 years in the law profession, he’s never had such a plea accepted, he said — though he’s tried only to have several rejected.
“This has been a terribly long ordeal for everyone,” Durkin said.
Though Coleman has agreed to hear the plea, that doesn’t mean she has accepted it. In a written opinion, Coleman said there needs to be a “sufficient colloquy,” or formalized conversation between the judge and Daoud’s defense, to make sure the defendant knows what he’s doing before she can accept it, Durkin said.
Daoud is accused of trying to blow up a bar in downtown Chicago with a fake car bomb given to him by an undercover federal agent in September 2012.
The Hillside man has been held in federal custody since he was 18. His trial dates have been repeatedly pushed back, and in August 2016, he was found not mentally fit to stand trial, prompting him to be sent to a federal treatment facility in Springfield, Missouri. That decision was reversed in March.
Along with allegedly attempting to detonate the bomb, Daoud is also accused of plotting the murder of the federal agent who gave him the inert device and attacking a fellow inmate. He faces other charges for the assault.
Later this month when lawyers return to court, the government will present its written factual basis for resolving the case and the judge is expected to rule there is sufficient evidence in the record to accept the special Alford plea, Durkin said, meaning Daoud won’t have to admit to anything.
If the judge does accept the plea, Daoud won’t have to withstand the stress of a trial, something his team of lawyers worry could cause a backslide in his mental health and lead to procedural complications for the case.
“In the final analysis, the balance is going to be the appropriate sentence which will have to take into account whether he is dangerous and whether or not there are alternatives that treatment can help,” Durkin said, adding that release will come with stringent conditions for supervision. “Obviously, the day has to come when he will be released … that day has to come sooner or later, we urge it come sooner.”
Joseph Fitzpatrick, an assistant U.S. attorney and spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago, declined to comment.