Former Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo spends 23 hours a day indoors, where he stares at the sky through a 4-inch by 4-foot window, lies on his concrete bed or walks around the confined space of his nearly all-cement cell.
Abdo is serving two life sentences plus an additional 60 years at a federal penitentiary on several counts related to an attempt to kill Fort Hood soldiers.
The would-be terrorist hoped for some relief from his sentence when he appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, claiming his arrest was unlawful, that he had been denied access to an expert witness and that he was unfairly charged twice for the same offense. But, the court threw out all of his claims on Monday, saying the sentencing in August stands.
Abdo likely won’t learn of the rejection until a letter from his lawyer arrives at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Fremont County, Colo. The attorney, Stan Schweiger, mailed it first-class on Monday.
“There’s no way of contacting him on the telephone. You don’t have a lot of availability to the outside world at all,” said Schweiger, a Waco attorney who was appointed by U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith to handle Abdo’s appeal after his conviction. “Your food or whatever other needs are served through slots. There’s not a chance you’re going to have human contact.”
Abdo, 23, intended to detonate a homemade bomb he was in the process of building at a hotel on Fort Hood Street. He wanted to set off the bomb at a local restaurant frequented by Fort Hood soldiers and shoot any survivors.
He was convicted of one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, one count of attempted murder of officers or employees of the U.S., and four counts of possession of a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.
Abdo’s request claims that his initial police detention was actually a full arrest instead of just an investigatory stop, which would have made it unlawful and rendered it and statements obtained at the time inadmissible as evidence.
While officers claimed they detained — not arrested — Abdo by placing him in the back of the cruiser to keep him out of the summer heat, Schweiger argues Abdo likely did not feel free to leave at his own will furthermore making him feel like he was arrested.
“If I got put down at gunpoint on hot cement, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser, the intent is not to keep me cool. The intent is to arrest me,” Schweiger said. “Ultimately, (Abdo) confessed to everything and the charges that were brought against him were based on his confession made to the FBI when they were interrogating him after he was arrested.”
The court also denied that Abdo’s trial was unfair. He said an expert witness could have testified that the bomb he was making would not have caused extensive harm. The court said $3,500 was granted to consult with the expert but that the expert charged an “exceedingly high fee” to appear in court and the judge refused.
Abdo was not formally arrested until after the officers learned there were outstanding warrants against him on a child pornography charge.
Schweiger has 14 days to respond to the rejection of the appeal.
“I have not had time to sit down and fully digest everything, but from what I read, there are some issues that (the judges) kind of worked around,” Schweiger said. “(Abdo) is ultimately going to make the calls and that’s what I have to do, but my plan is to go forward and point out what I think are some erroneous conclusions that the 5th Circuit reached (and ask them to rehear the case).”
Schweiger said he filed the appeal on Abdo’s behalf to ensure the law is followed in this case.
“He may have his own personal reasons behind it (wanting an appeal). I didn’t really delve into the geopolitical reasons he had,” Schweiger said. “I don’t know that anyone wants to sit on the side of a mountain the rest of their life.”