DETROIT _ A federal judge in Detroit refused Friday to appoint a new lawyer for convicted underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmjutallab, who says his standby lawyer has been ignoring him.
"You are representing yourself," U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds told Abdulmutallab during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Detroit. "So, you're not even legally entitled to standby counsel. ... I would say Mr. Chambers and his staff have done an extraordinary job in advancing your representation in this matter _ far more than what standby counsel usually does and I see no reason to replace standby counsel."
Abdulmutallab is to be sentenced Feb. 16 to a mandatory life prison for trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner with more than 300 passengers aboard on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb hidden in his underwear. Airline passengers will be allowed to address the court on Jan. 19, the date Edmunds originally set for sentencing. She did so after prosecutors raised concerns that some passengers or crew members may have already made travel plans to be here on Jan. 19. Victims also will be allowed to speak on Feb. 16, the actual sentencing day.
The 25-year-old Nigerian student-turned-al-Qaida-operative complained in a letter to Edmunds last month that his standby lawyer, Anthony Chambers, a prominent Detroit criminal defense attorney, was neglecting his legal needs. Abdulmutallab said Chambers hadn't visited him in months and that Chambers and his staff had lied to Abdulmutallab and failed to provide legal documents he had requested.
Chambers countered in court papers Friday that he and his staff have "gone above and beyond the call of duty to help defend this case" leading up to trial in October. He said denied that he and his staff had lied to Abdulmutallab, failed to visit him and failed to bring him legal documents. He said his staff has provided Abdulmutallab with documents that weren't legally relevant to his case.
Chambers said he was willing to continue helping Abdulmutallab prepare for his Feb. 16 sentencing if that's what Edmunds preferred.
Abdulmutallab asked Edmunds to consider appointing a Muslim lawyer to help him prepare for sentencing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel has opposed Abdulmutallab's request, saying he has no legal right to standby counsel because he insisted on representing himself.
Tukel said that appointing a new lawyer would delay the sentencing, inconveniencing several passengers who have already made plans to attend. He said Abdulmutallab doesn't want his new lawyer to have access to government records prosecutors gave him to prepare for trial, a decision that could further delay resolution of the case.
Abdulmutallab fired his initial court-appointed lawyers in 2010 and demanded that he be allowed to represent himself. He reluctantly accepted Chambers as standby counsel to advise him as needed.
As it turned out, Chambers played a major role, filing motions, representing Abdulmutallab at pre-trial hearings and questioning nearly every potential juror at the beginning of his trial.
Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty _ as charged _ to eight counts, including conspiring to commit an act of terrorism, use of a weapon of mass destruction and carrying a firearm or destructive device during a crime of violence. The last charge carries a mandatory life sentence.
Chambers has said Abdulmutallab likely would serve his sentence at the federal super-max prison in Florence, Colo., where other convicted terrorists are serving their time.