Attorneys say FBI withheld evidence in Islamic State case
PHOENIX (AP) — Attorneys for a man convicted of providing guns to two Islamic State followers killed as they tried to attack a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas claim authorities didn’t reveal until three years after his trial ended that the FBI placed a surveillance camera outside the plotters’ Phoenix apartment.
Attorneys for Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, who is serving a 30-year prison sentence for providing the guns, are seeking a new trial, arguing that authorities withheld key evidence.
“There can be no doubt that the government intentionally failed to disclose the existence of the pole camera and its tape and the only explanation is because it was and is beneficial to the defense,” attorneys Daniel Maynard and Daniel Drake wrote in a court filing Friday.
The attorneys said the camera was installed on a pole outside the apartment shared by Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi on the day they left for the anti-Islam event in Garland, Texas. The lawyers say the video doesn’t contain any footage of Kareem, who was accused of being the trainer and providing financing for the attack.
The footage “shows that he was not participating in the planning of the attack at the crucial time when Simpson and Soofi are getting ready to leave,” the attorneys said.
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.
Kareem, who was in Arizona at the time of the 2015 attack, also was convicted of conspiring with Simpson and Soofi to provide support to the Islamic State terror group. He was one of the first people brought to trial in the United States on charges related to the Islamic State.
Simpson and Soofi were armed with semi-automatic weapons, body armor and had a copy of the Islamic State flag when they arrived at the event near Dallas. They were killed in a shootout with local police officers assigned to guard the event. A security guard was shot in the leg.
Investigators said Kareem, who wasn’t there, had trained Simpson and Soofi on how to use the guns and watched jihadist videos with them. Kareem testified he didn’t know his friends were going to attack the contest and didn’t find out about the shooting until after they were killed.
The existence of the camera outside the apartment isn’t the first surprising disclosure made by federal authorities since Kareem was convicted in March 2016.
In the months after his trial, authorities revealed for the first time that an undercover FBI agent had exchanged social media messages with Simpson days before the attack and was sitting in a vehicle outside the Garland convention center when the attack began.
As the agent drove around Simpson and Soofi’s car, which had stopped abruptly, the attackers got out and opened fire with military-style rifles. The agent drove away and was stopped by police. Prosecutors said the information about the undercover officer was classified at the time of the trial.
In the days after the shooting, then-FBI Director James Comey said federal investigators learned only hours before the contest that a man under investigation for extremist activities might show up and alerted local authorities. Comey also said investigators had no indication that the man planned to attack the event.
A judge who rejected an earlier request by Kareem for a new trial had noted Simpson didn’t reveal to the agent that he wanted to go to Texas to launch an attack.
Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud