An attorney for an Illinois teenager charged with trying to ignite what he thought was a car bomb outside of a Chicago bar said Monday that agents may have improperly lured his client by telling him fictitious Islamic religious leaders condoned violence.
The defense lawyer spoke to reporters after 18-year-old Adel Daoud, a U.S. citizen from the Chicago suburb of Hillside, made an initial appearance in a federal court.
Daoud was arrested Friday after allegedly trying to set off a triggering device that was part of a fake mechanism set up by FBI agents as a part of a sting. He faces charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempting to damage and destroy a building with an explosive.
Thomas Durkin says agents wooed Daoud into participating by posing as terrorists and telling him imams overseas wanted him to engage in terrorism — contradicting instructions from the teen's imams that such violence ran counter to Islamic teachings.
"The government played the imam card," said Durkin, who has represented similar such cases in Chicago. "I've never seen that before."
The U.S. Attorney's Office has said the device was harmless and the public was never at risk.
The FBI has used similar tactics in counterterrorism investigations, deploying undercover agents to engage suspects in talk of terror plots and then provide fake explosive devices. In 2010, a Lebanese immigrant took what he thought was a bomb and dropped it into a trash bin near Chicago's Wrigley Field. In a 2009 case, agents provided a Jordanian man with a fake truck bomb that he used to try to blow up a 60-story office tower in Dallas.
Judge Arlander Keys delayed a ruling Monday on whether to grant bond for Daoud, saying he would decide the matter at a hearing Thursday.
Durkin questioned how federal agents apparently approached Daoud after discovering he was active in a jihadist Internet forum. He said it wasn't clear Daoud harbored any desire to launch an attack until agents reached out.
"I've had terrorism cases," Durkin said. "This doesn't smell like a terrorism case. There's something wrong with it."
Prosecutors didn't speak to reporters after Monday's hearing. But in filings, they said Daoud was offered several chances to walk away from the plot.
Daoud's legs and arms were shackled Monday, and he sported a thin beard and thick, curly, shoulder-length hair. He smiled as he whispered to his attorney and fidgeted with his jumpsuit as he stood before the judge.
Daoud's father, Ahmed Daoud, began weeping as he tried to approach his son — a U.S. marshal stepped between them and told the elder Daoud he wasn't allowed to speak with the teen.
"Salam," Adel Daoud said in a soft voice to his father as marshals led him away. Salam is an Arabic word for peace.
The father pounded his hand on a door frame as he left the room, and acquaintances tried to console him.
"I can't see my son. It's not fair," Ahmed Daoud said.
Durkin said his client is immature for his age, and that counselors from the Chicago-area school he graduated from this year, the Islamic Foundation School, described him as "socially awkward."
The Chicago-born teen aspired to study Arabic, which he can't speak fluently, Durkin said, and Adel Daoud grew up in an ethnically mixed, middle-class neighborhood.
After Daoud began talking to undercover agents, the affidavit says, Daoud and an agent met six times over the summer and exchanged messages. Daoud then identified 29 potential targets, the document said, and settled on a downtown bar.
He conducted surveillance on the bar, which the affidavit did not identify, but says Daoud told the agent it was also a concert venue by a liquor store.
On Friday evening, Daoud drove with an agent to downtown Chicago and entered a parking lot where a Jeep Cherokee containing the phony bomb was parked, the document says.
Daoud parked it in front of the bar, and then pressed a triggering mechanism as he walked away, the affidavit says. He was then arrested.
In his conversations with the agent, Daoud explained his reasons for wanting an attack, saying the United States was at war "with Islam and Muslims," the affidavit said.
The document says he was trying to recruit others and was confronted by leaders of his mosque who warned he should stop. The affidavit said Daoud's father was aware of his son's discussions and told him to stop talking about it.