Shoe Bomber Pleads Guilty
Saturday, October 5, 2002

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 war."

"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 it."

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plead guilty in court filings this week but had asked that allegations that he was trained as an al Qaeda terrorist be withdrawn.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 morning.

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 violence.

"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 all."

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 prison."

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 the plane.

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 said?"



Back to the Stories & Articles Page