Friend of San Bernardino Terrorists Asks to Withdraw Guilty Plea

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – The California man who pleaded guilty to supplying the rifles used in the deadly 2015 San Bernardino terror attack said Friday he wants to withdraw his guilty plea as his defense gathers evidence that will be filed this year.

Enrique Marquez pleaded guilty to supplying the two rifles used by Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, who killed 14 people and injured 22 others on Dec. 2, 2015, at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. Both Farook and Malik were killed in a shootout with police shortly after the attack.

Marquez entered a not guilty plea in 2016 but reached a deal the following year in which he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, including guns and explosives, and making false statements in connection with the acquisition of firearms, according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors maintain Marquez did not plan the shooting but purchased the guns and explosives for Farook, his childhood friend. Marquez was arrested about two weeks after the shooting.

Sentencing for Marquez has been delayed multiple times and in June 2018 his public defender Amy Karlin cited a conflict of interest and stepped away from the case. Riverside-based attorney John Aquilina was assigned from the Federal Indigent Panel.

On Friday, Marquez appeared in a Riverside federal courtroom in a white prison jumpsuit with his attorney before U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal.

Aquilina said he plans to file evidence in May that will allow his client to request to withdraw his guilty plea to the first count. He asked for more time to collect evidence as there have been delays but expects that collection to take about 90 days.

Bernal asked about the nature of the evidence being collected. Responding in general, Aquilina said only that the evidence will support Marquez’s request to change his plea.

Aquilina expects a portion of the motion will be filed under seal which will include a declaration from Marquez.

 “What is the general basis of the evidence?” Bernal pressed Aquilina.

“Mr. Marquez acknowledged his guilt. At this time, he’s denying his guilt to count one,” Aquilina said. He added the motion was not being made on a “whim” but additional time is needed because the previous evidence gathered was focused on other issues.

Aquilina said he was not able to go into detail in open court. Bernal asked if the motion pertained to Marquez’ competence but Aquilina only said not as it is “defined in the law.”

Federal prosecutors said they did not object to the additional time Marquez needs to file his motion. Aquilina declined to comment outside the courtroom.

Under his guilty plea, Marquez faces 25 years in prison for his role in the deadly shooting.

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