Bomber Pleads Guilty
Saturday, October 5,
BOSTON -- Pledging his
allegiance to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden,
Richard C. Reid pleaded guilty today to attempting
to blow up an airliner over the Atlantic Ocean last
December with explosives hidden in his shoes.
Reid, a 29-year-old British drifter, declared his
hatred for America during a federal court appearance
and called the thwarted attack an "act of
"Basically, I got on the plane with the
bomb," said Reid, who chuckled at times during
the hearing and was defiant at others.
"Basically I got on, I tried to ignite
Reid's plea marked the government's second
conviction in the war on terror since the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks on New York and Washington. John
Walker Lindh, the U.S. citizen who was sentenced to
20 years in prison yesterday, pleaded guilty in July
to supplying services to the Taliban. Zacarias
Moussaoui, the only person in the United States
accused of helping plot the attacks, is scheduled to
stand trial next June.
Reid had signaled his intent to plead guilty in
court filings this week but had asked that
allegations that he was trained as an al Qaeda
terrorist be withdrawn. Chief U.S. District Court
Judge William G. Young rejected that request this
Young told Reid that the terror allegations would be
considered at his sentencing. Reid responded:
"Yeah, I understand that and I don't care; I am
a member of al Qaeda. I have pledged to Osama bin
Laden, and I am an enemy of your country and I don't
care. Simple and plain."
Asked by Young why he had decided to plead guilty,
Reid answered: "Because I know at the end of
the day that I done the actions."
Federal sentencing guidelines mandate that Reid
receive 60 years to life in federal prison. U.S.
Attorney Michael Sullivan said the government would
seek to ensure that Reid must "remain in prison
for the rest of his natural life."
Reid, disheveled and clad in tan prison attire,
nodded as Young, seated about three feet away,
painstakingly detailed the charges against him,
which included attempted murder and attempted use of
a weapon of mass destruction. He pleaded guilty to
all eight counts but briefly protested the last one
because, he said, it required him to admit that he
had used a destructive device during a crime of
"I used a destructive device in an act of
war," he told the judge. "I don't
recognize your law, and I don't recognize your
system. I don't recognize any of your laws at
Reid's father, Robin Reid, told the BBC in London
that he loved his son and would support him
"any way I can." He said his he did not
blame his son for the crime. "I blame myself
for not being there when he was growing up. I was in
prison when I should have been there."
He said he was grateful that his son did not succeed
in blowing up the plane and sobbed as he added:
"I think now that my son will die in
American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami,
carrying 197 passengers and crew, was over the
Atlantic on Dec. 22 when Reid struck six matches in
an attempt to detonate plastic explosives encased in
the soles of his high-top hiking boots. A flight
attendant smelled the smoke from a lighted match and
attempted to subdue the hulking, unkempt Reid, but
he flung her aside. Passengers and crew subdued
Reid, tied him up and took the shoes to the rear of
U.S. officials today praised Reid's plea as a major
victory in the war on terrorism, noting Lindh's
sentencing and new charges revealed against six
alleged terrorists from the Portland, Ore., area.
"It is a day both of victory and a day of
resolve; of well-deserved thanks for a job well done
coupled with a rededication to the job that lies
ahead," Attorney General John D. Ashcroft said.
Reid's plea preempted a much-anticipated trial next
month at which the government was expected to detail
how Reid had tried to ignite the fuse connected to
the soles of his shoes. Prosecutors said today that
Reid succeeded only in melting the fuse. Sullivan
said "moisture" on the matches or fuse
probably prevented Reid from igniting the bomb.
Authorities believe Reid had help constructing the
device. They have said that they found unidentified
human hair and a palm print on the explosives, which
the FBI said were powerful enough to blow a hole in
the plane's fuselage.
Two days before the flight, prosecutors said, Reid
had written three e-mail messages, leaving them in a
draft folder of a Yahoo e-mail account. In one, a
letter to his mother, Reid wrote that he was
planning to carry out the attack "as a duty
upon me to help remove the oppressive americanforces
from the muslim lands . . ."
"What I am doing is part of an ongoing war
between islam and disbelief . . . a war between
islam and democracy," Reid wrote.
Another document, Reid's will, described the World
Trade Center as "a legitimate target being the
main financial center for the US from which [it]
supports itself and Israel."
In an e-mail message to a person identified as
"brother," Reid wrote about a dream he had
a year earlier in which he was waiting for a ride
from a pickup truck that, when it arrived, was full.
Reid said he became upset in the dream and was
forced to take a smaller car.
"I now believe that the pickup that came first
was [the Sept. 11 attacks] and its true that I was
upset at not being sent," Reid wrote.
The first part of today's hearing concerned the
efforts of Reid's lawyers to remove assertions in
the indictments that Reid had trained as an al Qaeda
member, an apparent effort to reduce Reid's
sentence. Young ruled that while the language was
not necessarily relevant to the hearing, it could
become relevant at Reid's sentencing.
Young then called Reid to the witness stand.
Reid smiled as Young informed him that if he chose
to plead not guilty he would be entitled to a fair
trial before an impartial jury. He smiled again when
Young told him he would not be allowed to issue a
sentence more severe than required by the sentencing
guidelines "unless there's something especially
evil about you."
Asked finally if he was satisfied with the manner in
which his attorneys had represented him, he said:
"I suppose so. I don't recognize your system,
so how can I be satisfied?"
"So you are pleading guilty?" Young asked.
"Guilty? I [already] said," Reid responded
defiantly. "You don't understand what I
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