Monday, February 22, 2010

Breaking News - Zazi to Plead Guilty to Terror Charges

Numerous sources are reporting today that Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan immigrant labeled one of the most serious threats to the United States since the 9/11 attacks, has agreed to plead guilty to terrorism charges later today.

According to the New York Times, Zazi will appear before Judge Raymond J. Dearie at the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn at 2:30pm to enter his plea to charges of conspiracy to detonate bombs in the Unites States.

Mr. Zazi, who was born in Afghanistan and was raised in Pakistan and later Flushing, Queens, where he attended high school, was working as an airport shuttle driver in Denver when he was arrested in September 2009.

The federal authorities said he had received weapons and explosives training at a Qaeda camp in Pakistan, bought beauty products that contained the raw materials to build a bomb and traveled to Queens with bomb-making instructions in his laptop on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Two people with knowledge of the case said that in recent weeks, Mr. Zazi had begun providing information to prosecutors as part of the initial stages of an agreement that led up to his expected guilty plea Monday.

Such an arrangement suggests that prosecutors believe Mr. Zazi can provide valuable information, including evidence about the plot, the involvement of others, including those who may be overseas, and other intelligence on Al Qaeda. A number of other people have been arrested in the case, including his father, his uncle and two of his classmates at Flushing High School. Those actions, including the filing of more serious charges against his father earlier this month, may have in some way influenced the decision to plead guilty, another lawyer suggested.

“I am aware that he is under intense pressure because of what’s happening,” the lawyer said.


Other sources reporting on the matter include Fox News and CNN.

The Zazi plea deal comes shortly after I blogged about my new article, Plea Bargaining in the Shadow of Terror. As described in that post, my article discusses the motivations behind terrorists who plead guilty. The Zazi case is reminiscent of the Richard Reid (aka The Shoe Bomber) case. Reid pleaded guilty in return for no leniency from the government. Rather than leniency, Reid was motivated by a desire to avoid the emotional and financial costs of a lengthy terrorism trial on his family. It appears Zazi may be motivated by similar forces. We will have to see, however, whether Zazi receives any sentencing benefits for him cooperation and agreement to plead guilty or whether he is simply attempting to avoid the costs of trial on himself and his family.

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