CHICAGO (CN) – A terrorism suspect accused of trying to set off a bomb at a bar in downtown Chicago is competent to stand trial after receiving a year and a half of psychiatric treatment, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Government and defense attorneys told U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman on Monday afternoon that they agree terror suspect Adel Daoud can now stand trial, a year and a half after he was sent to a federal mental institution for treatment.
Based on the agreement of the parties, Coleman ruled from the bench that Daoud is competent for trial, setting in motion the wheels of prosecution that have been on hold since August 2016.
Daoud was 17 when he allegedly took the bait offered by undercover FBI agents posing as terrorists, who contacted him online about committing violent jihad attacks in the United States.
His 2012 indictment alleges one of these FBI correspondents put Daoud in touch with a “cousin,” a man Daoud allegedly believed was a radical jihadist when they met in person six times.
Federal prosecutors say this undercover agent supplied Daoud with a fake bomb to destroy the target of his choice, and watched as Daoud unsuccessfully tried to detonate it inside the Jeep he parked in front of a bar in downtown Chicago. The agent immediately arrested Daoud.
He was scheduled to be tried in early 2017, but in mid-2016, Daoud sent letters to the court indicating he believed the entire justice system was controlled by the Illuminati, or “reptiles in disguise,” and that his attorneys were Freemasons.
Based on this evidence and Daoud’s own testimony, Coleman found him unfit to stand trial. She attributed his mental health decline to his lengthy periods spent in solitary confinement, coupled with the trauma of witnessing a cellmate’s attempted and then successful suicide.
He has since been prescribed the powerful antipsychotic drug Abilify, used to treat schizophrenia, and participated in both one-on-one and group therapy sessions.
On Monday, both the government and defense attributed Daoud’s return to competency to the effects of the medication.
Defense expert Dr. Steven Xenakis testified that Daoud now “tracks better in a conversation.”
“He’ll consider another opinion, and take redirection in a way he didn’t before,” Xenakis told the court.
Last year, Daoud was very agitated in interviews and would often have a “very odd look on his face,” according to Xenakis, whereas Daoud was “much calmer, and had a more serious look on his face” in his most recent interview.
The psychiatrist testified that Daoud suffers from a “severe psychotic illness,” but is competent to stand trial as long as he continues to take his medication.
Defense attorney Thomas Durkin told the court that Daoud would be able to keep taking his medication while in jail awaiting trial in Chicago, and he is currently housed with the general population, not in solitary confinement.
The government did not present any live testimony, but rested on the admission of its expert’s report, which also found Daoud competent.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bolling Haxall told the court that the expert’s finding is “not an unusual result of the medication.”
Daoud, now 24, still seemed like an adolescent in court Monday.
He repeatedly put his head down on the table as Xenakis testified, prompting his attorneys to nudge him to sit up. He often searched for his father in the audience, constantly tugged on his short beard, and sounded very nervous answering Judge Coleman’s questions about whether he understood and knowingly waived his right to testify on his own behalf.
At the end of the hearing, Judge Coleman thanked Daoud’s parents for being present.
The parties will next appear in court for a status hearing on April 11.
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