U.S. hot about sealed filings in Detroit plane hijakcing case

By Ed White

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- A judge suddenly scheduled a hearing for this week after prosecutors raised questions last Friday about sealed documents in the case against a Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a plane near Detroit.

The government wants to know if Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab agreed to the sealed filings recently made by his standby counsel, Anthony Chambers. The hearing is Wednesday.

The subject of the filings was not disclosed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corken, but she wrote that it could affect the Oct. 4 trial date and Abdulmutallab's ability to "continue with self-representation." She didn't elaborate.

Abdulmutallab, 24, is charged with trying to blow up an Amsterdam-to-Detroit plane with nearly 300 people on Christmas Day 2009.

He dismissed his court-appointed lawyers last year and said he wanted to represent himself. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds agreed but also assigned Chambers, a respected defense attorney, as standby counsel to assist him.

Chambers declined to offer much comment.

"We are not running amok. We are following the court rules," he told The Associated Press. "We are meeting our ethical responsibilities to the court as well as the client."

If Abdulmutallab is convicted, the government is concerned about an appeal. Corken said there's a "serious danger" that a conviction could be overturned if he convinces an appeals court that his right to represent himself was "eroded by an overly eager standby counsel."

Published: Tue, Aug 16, 2011