Hearing Set For Imperial Beach Man Charged With Attempting To Blow Up Mosque
Friday, February 4, 2011
A hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to try a California man on charges of plotting to blow up a Detroit-area mosque was put on hold Friday to give him time to talk to his new lawyer.
A judge appointed a new defense attorney after Roger Stockham described his first attorney, Mark Haidar, in court as "a Shiite" and a "patron of the mosque."
Dearborn District Court Judge Mark Somers said he recognized Stockham wasn't satisfied with his lawyer, ordered him to a holding area and said he would see about getting him a new attorney.
"Let's make sure we get off on the right foot," said the judge, who later appointed Livonia-based criminal defense attorney Matthew Evans.
The change in lawyers happened at what was supposed to be Stockham's preliminary examination on charges of making a false report or threat of terrorism and one count of possessing explosives with an unlawful intent.
But instead, the 63-year-old Vietnam veteran from Imperial Beach, Calif., told Somers: "I reject my appointed counsel. He is a Shiite," referring to a sect of Islam.
Haidar didn't attend Friday's hearing because he was out of town.
In a telephone interview, he said he had told Stockham about his faith and that he had attended services at the mosque - the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn. Still, he said he was surprised by Stockham's decision.
"The judge probably shouldn't be listening to someone with his mental history," Haidar told The Associated Press. "I would think he shouldn't be the one making the decision at this point."
Haidar said he had planned to have another attorney request a competency evaluation for Stockham based on his history of mental illness.
Evans, however, said he wouldn't do that because Stockham understands the charges and court process and can participate in his defense.
Stockham "definitely has strong convictions, but I think he's sane," Evans said.
Stockham has had several violent run-ins with the law dating back to the 1970s, including one in which he kidnapped his son from a foster home and crashed a plane while trying to get away.
He was arrested during a Jan. 24 traffic stop near the Islamic Center, which is one of the nation's largest mosques and serves the area's sizable Arab community.
Witnesses told investigators Stockham sipped Scotch at a nearby sports bar hours before his arrest and bragged about how he was going to cause a big explosion. Police said when they pulled Stockham over, he was wearing a ski mask and had more than two dozen fireworks in his car, including M-80s, which are illegal in Michigan.
Police have not discussed why they believe Stockham may have targeted the Dearborn mosque.
Joe Nahhas, a manager at the Detroit bar Stockham allegedly visited before his arrest, said Stockham claimed to have become a Muslim after returning from the Vietnam War and said he recognized that Stockham could speak at least some Arabic. He also said Stockham claimed to be part of a group of Indonesian mujahedeen, or holy warriors.
Evans said he has seen no evidence that his client threatened to blow up the mosque.
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