WACO, Texas — A federal judge on Friday refused to throw out a confession from the soldier accused of planning to bomb a Texas restaurant filled with troops from Fort Hood.
Lawyers for Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo say authorities did not read his Miranda rights or grant his request for a lawyer before he told them of plans to blow up the building and shoot survivors. They also claimed the search warrant affidavit contained incorrect information, and asked the judge to suppress evidence obtained after Abdo was detained in July at a motel near the Texas Army post.
U.S. District Judge Walter Smith rejected the motions Friday after a four-hour hearing in Waco.
Abdo, 22, faces up to life in prison if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and eight other charges. His trial is set for May.
He was AWOL from Fort Campbell, Ky., when he was arrested. Authorities say they found a handgun, ingredients for an explosive device and an article entitled "Make a bomb in the kitchen of your Mom" in his room and backpack. An article with that title appears in an al-Qaida magazine.
A Killeen police detective, Sgt. Eric Bradley, testified Friday that officers began investigating Abdo after a Guns Galore employee called July 26, saying a young man bought six pounds of smokeless gunpowder, shotgun ammunition and a magazine for a semi-automatic pistol — while seeming to know little about what he was buying. The man never removed his sunglasses while in the store. Officers found out the man also bought a U.S. Army uniform from another local store and a "Smith" name patch but didn't know his unit, according to testimony Friday.
Officers tracked Abdo to a motel, where they stopped and handcuffed him as he walked out with a full backpack on the afternoon of July 27, Bradley said. Another detective testified that he read Abdo his Miranda rights before placing him in a police car, but the audio did not record because of a delay.
Bradley said he asked Abdo questions in the police car. In a muffled recording played in court Friday, Bradley is heard saying he saw footage of Abdo in area stores and asking if he knew about events in Killeen, including the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood in which an Army psychiatrist is charged.
Abdo then said he had applied for conscientious objector status but that was put on hold after he was charged with having child pornography.
"So I'm AWOL ... and I was planning an attack here in the Fort Hood community," Abdo is heard saying on the recording.
C. Michael Owens, an FBI special agent, testified that he read Miranda rights to Abdo twice — before interviewing him on July 27 and 28. Prosecutors showed documents signed by Abdo agreeing to talk to investigators and waiving his rights to an attorney. During the first six-hour interview, Abdo said he was in Killeen to make things right with Allah because he had sinned against Allah, Owens testified.
But on the night of July 27, two FBI agents working in a command center took messages from the same supervisory agent-in-charge saying that Abdo had requested an attorney, according to documents produced by defense attorneys. Both agents testified that they didn't recall if they had spoken to the supervisory agent directly or had the message passed along to them, and they only wrote notes into the system and did not try to verify the information.
The supervisory agent testified Friday that he was not in Killeen that night, never received information about Abdo wanting an attorney and did not pass along that information to anyone.