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Lawyer says terror suspect may try to take back unusual guilty plea after sentence overturned

Such a move could set the stage for a trial nearly a decade after Adel Daoud’s arrest in 2012 for trying to set off a car bomb downtown when he was 18.

Adel Daoud
Adel Daoud
AP Photos

A lawyer for a Hillside man charged in a long-running Chicago terrorism case told a judge Friday he wants to talk to his client about withdrawing the unusual guilty plea he entered in 2018, potentially adding another chapter to the lengthy legal odyssey.

Adel Daoud, now 27, had been sentenced in 2019 to 16 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman for trying to set off what turned out to be an inert 1,000-pound car bomb outside a downtown Chicago bar in 2012. The feds say he also tried to have an undercover federal agent killed and later attacked a fellow inmate in jail.

Ahead of his sentencing, Coleman accepted a specialized guilty plea from Daoud, in which he admitted the facts revolving around his arrest but still denied culpability. It’s known as an Alford plea. The judge accepted the plea over the objection of prosecutors.

But the feds also took the unusual step of appealing the sentence Coleman handed down. And late last year, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that sentence and took Daoud’s case away from Coleman, finding that she “downplayed the extreme seriousness” of the matter.

The case was later re-assigned to U.S. District Judge John Lee, who presided over his first status hearing in the case Friday. Lee asked about a new sentencing hearing for Daoud, and whether he could rely on transcripts from the earlier sentencing hearing that lasted days and amounted to a mini-trial.

Defense attorney Thomas Anthony Durkin said he would “strongly object” to that idea. He said Daoud’s legal team wants to meet with Daoud in part to assess his mental health. Daoud had been ruled not mentally fit to stand trial in 2016, but Coleman later said he had recovered.

Durkin also said the 7th Circuit, in its ruling last year, analyzed the case as if Daoud had entered a normal guilty plea “and admitted to all the facts.” He said he now wants to talk to Daoud about withdrawing the Alford plea.

Such a move could set the stage for a trial nearly a decade after Daoud’s arrest, which occurred when he was 18. But Lee would also likely have to approve the withdrawal.

The judge on Friday told lawyers he wanted to take the case “one step at a time,” and he agreed for now to order Daoud sent to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago to meet with his lawyers.

Daoud is currently being held in a high-security penitentiary in West Virginia, prison records show.