Man Who Aided San Bernardino Terror Attack Wants to Withdraw Guilty Plea

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – A convicted man who pleaded guilty to providing the rifles used in the deadly 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack now wants to withdraw his plea, according to his lawyer’s statement in federal court on Thursday.

Enrique Marquez Jr. said in court records he was catatonic, suicidal and depressed at the time he agreed to the charges, according to his attorney who argued for his client in the Central District of California courtroom in Riverside.

Marquez did not carry out the deadly terrorist attack that killed 14 people in December 2015, but he pleaded guilty to supplying the AR-15 style rifles that were used by his neighbors.

Marquez’ friends Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik carried out the deadly shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. Farook, an American-born U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, and Malik a green card holder, targeted a holiday work party of county employees.

Malik and Farook were killed in a shootout with police about 2 miles away from the initial attack.

Prosecutors say Marquez and Farook were friends, who discussed carrying out other possible attacks at a community college, along a busy highway and at a local Veteran’s Administration hospital.

Those plans never developed into any action, but Marquez purchased the rifles used in the deadly 2015 shooting, according to prosecutors.

On Thursday, his defense attorney John Aquilina argued that the rifles used in the terrorist attack were purchased in November 2011 and February 2012, prior to any conversations Marquez had with Farook about any planned attacks.

There were never any actions taken by Marquez from any of the conversations he had with Farook. Marquez was living with his neighbors at the time due to an unstable home life, Aquilina said.

Psychiatrist Saul Faerstein testified that during an interview with Marquez, he diagnosed the now 28-year-old man with bipolar disorder.

A portion of a sealed declaration from Marquez was read in court that explained why he wanted U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal to withdraw his guilty plea. In the declaration read by prosecutors, Marquez said he was catatonic and depressed due to prescribed medications for depression and anxiety when he pleaded guilty in February 2017.

Faerstein said medical records showed that Marquez did not exhibit any signs of being catatonic and was receptive while incarcerated as he awaited trial. After he pleaded guilty, Marquez thought he would feel different, Faerstein said.

“He thought he would feel a great sense of relief,” Faerstein testified.

Still, Faerstein testified that Marquez continued to show a positive attitude all around about his incarceration, reading literature and inspirational books. He wrote to a friend one month before he pleaded guilty that one book “gave him hope to change the world for the better,” Faerstein said.

Throughout Thursday’s hearing, Faerstein said Marquez showed a positive mental state according to medical records despite mood swings and changes to his medication. He was not withdrawn or isolated as Marquez claimed to be in his declaration.

Marquez is still in federal custody, and in the plea agreement he now wants to back out of, prosecutors recommended a 25-year sentence.

Faerstein said Marquez participated in all conversations with his previous defense counsel, was aware of the circumstances surrounding the charges he was facing and did not want to subject the families of the victims to a trial and to take some responsibility for the attack.

“He understood what a guilty plea meant,” Faerstein testified.

After the December 2015 attack, Faerstein said Marquez contemplated driving his car off a pier, but a chain blocked his path.

Some victims and family members of victims were present at the court hearing on Thursday. They watched the hearing as Marquez sat in a white jumpsuit.

The hearing is set to resume on Friday.

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