Judge delays ruling on Smadi terror plea

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by DEBBIE DENMON

WFAA

Posted on May 26, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 26 at 6:37 PM

DALLAS — The truck bomb was intended to level a Dallas skyscraper — a vengeful act by a 19-year-old intent on striking fear in North Texas.

Suspect Hosam Smadi entered a guilty plea in the case on Wednesday as new questions came into focus.

Late Wednesday afternoon, U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn said she needed more time to decide how long Smadi should spend in prison for the bomb attempt in September.

Under a deal that was made public on Tuesday, Smadi agreed to plead guilty in exchange for no more than 30 years behind bars.

But the defendant is no closer to learning his fate.

Defense attorney Peter Fleury said his client's crime doesn't fit the man.

"Everybody that has met Hosam Smadi will tell you he is a nice, kind, generous man, and he's not political and he's not very religious and yet he did this terrible thing."

Smadi admitted to the judge as she looked over his guilty plea that he tried to use his cell phone to detonate what he thought was a bomb in a plot to blow up the Fountain Place tower in downtown Dallas.

The defense attorney told the judge that Smadi has been diagnosed with a mental disorder.

"We will present to the judge evidence that he suffers from schizophrenia as part of our argument that that lessens, in some way, his culpability," Fleury said. "But it's not going to be an excuse for the offense."

The sentencing phase is now scheduled to take place on August 20. At that time, the judge will likely accept the plea agreement.

The defense said it is absolutely normal to defer the deal until that time.

Witnesses are expected to testify on both sides in what is now envisioned as a lengthy hearing on how much time Hosam Smadi will spend in federal prison.

Smadi caught the attention of federal agents early last year.

The FBI first started tracking him online in March and caught him communicating with a group of extremists.

Undercover agents made contact with Smadi multiple times in a three-month sting operation before he attempted to blow up a Dallas building.

Documents said Smadi starting narrowing down a list of targets before deciding on the 60-story Fountain Place tower.

In September, undercover agents said he took the inactive car bomb they gave him, placed it underneath the building, and tried to detonate the fake bomb with a cell phone.

He was arrested on that day — September 24 — and has been in federal custody ever since.

Before his arrest, the 19 year old man worked and lived in Italy, Texas.

His former neighbors say 30 years behind bars isn't enough.

"I'm disgusted by it. I don't think it's fair. They can come over here and threaten our lives, why do they even get a chance to be able to make a choice like that?" said Ashley Morris.

Smadi had been scheduled to go to trial on June 7, just a few days after his 20th birthday.

E-mail:ddenmon@wfaa.com

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