By Philip Jankowski
Killeen Daily Herald
WACO - A federal judge delayed the criminal trial for Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, resetting it for May 21 and going against Abdo's wishes to start the proceedings later this month.
In a written motion unsealed Monday, U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. ruled that Abdo's interests would be better served by postponing the trial to give the soldier's new defense team time to prepare. The judge also set deadlines for any plea agreement and hearings for pre-trial motions.
In late December, Smith appointed Abdo a new attorney after the soldier expressed disagreements with his original court-appointed defense team. Abdo now is represented by Copperas Cove attorney Zachary L. Boyd. The judge has placed a gag order on all attorneys involved in the case, and Boyd did not return calls to his office Tuesday.
Abdo, 21, is charged with nine federal weapons charges and other charges stemming from an alleged plot to kill Fort Hood soldiers. If convicted of the most serious offense, attempted murder of officers or employees of the United States, Abdo could face up to life in prison. The soldier remains in custody at an undisclosed federal holding facility.
When Abdo was arrested July 27, court documents show that he was found with several materials that federal investigators believe he intended to use in assembling shrapnel bombs. An FBI investigator testified during probable cause hearing that Abdo was within hours of completing the bombs.
Court documents state that Abdo intended to detonate the bombs at a restaurant frequented by Fort Hood soldiers and then shoot survivors with a handgun. Killeen police officers found pressure cookers, shotgun shells, clocks, gun powder and other materials when they arrested Abdo at a local hotel within walking distance of the Army post.
According to FBI officials, Abdo admitted to the bombing plot while in custody at the Killeen City Jail. The soldier also told a Nashville television station he originally intended to kill an officer at his assigned post in Fort Campbell, Ky.
When officials became suspicious of his actions in Kentucky, Abdo fled the post. Army officials listed the soldier as AWOL on July 4. He emerged in Killeen around July 26, when witnesses spotted him at a local gun store and military surplus retailer.
A tip from a former police officer and gun store clerk led police to Abdo, who filed for conscientious objector status to avoid a deployment to Afghanistan in 2009. The soldier's filing attracted national media attention. At the time, Abdo said he wished to be a positive example of a peaceful Muslim.
Pentagon officials granted Abdo's conscientious objector status, but Fort Campbell officials later charged the soldier with possession of child pornography, halting his discharge from the Army.
When Abdo was arrested in Killeen, police also found a bomb recipe printed in an al-Qaida publication.
Contact Philip Jankowski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7553. Follow him on Twitter at KDHcrime.