Tuesday, February 02, 2010

TOP STORY >> Trial could get Muhammad his death wish

Leader executive editor

Last June, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad killed a soldier from Conway and injured another soldier from Jacksonville in front of a recruiting station in Little Rock.

Pvt. William Long, 23, died from a single bullet wound. Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula, 19, who lives in the Sunnyside section of Jacksonville, survived by playing dead. Ezeagwula was shot in his neck, back and buttocks.

Muhammad, 24, can’t wait for martyrdom.

Muhammad, aka Carlos Leon Bledsoe, is originally from Memphis. He thinks he’s a soldier for Islam.

He says he joined al-Qaeda when he traveled to Yemen three years ago, but prosecutors and the FBI think he’s just a loner and a loser. His father thinks he’s a fruitcake.

Muhammad wants a quick trial and conviction so he can get to paradise and into the waiting arms of those virgins they told him about when he converted to Islam in 2007.

He says prosecutors who “wish to frighten me with seeking the death penalty” don’t scare him at all.

“Bring it on,” he wrote to a Little Rock TV station recently. “We love death more than you love life. And you can’t kill those who are ready to die.”

Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley, who thinks Muhammad is “a cowardly, cold, calculating killer,” says he’ll seek the death penalty.

Muhammad wants to plead guilty, but Jegley’s not interested in a negotiated plea, which would mean life without parole.

“I won’t pay any respect to his political posturings,” Jegley told us. “I don’t care what his reasons are. We’re on for the trial in June.

“I’ll take care of the homicide charges,” Jegley added.

That would almost certainly mean a death sentence if Muhammad is convicted. The only possible reprieve, short of an acquittal, would be if Pvt. Long’s family took pity on him and asked Jegley for a negotiated plea.

But Jegley said that would be unlikely.

He considers Muhammad a murderer who couldn’t even find his way to al-Qaeda in Yemen, where they operate pretty much out in the open, like street peddlers and money changers.

The U.S. Justice Department thinks he may have made contact with some radical outfits there, but nothing came of it, Jegley told us.

Muhammad said the attack didn’t go as planned. He had hoped to kill more soldiers at the recruiting station. He managed to kill just one white soldier and injured a black soldier. That’s why he thinks he’s a failure.

But he’s not as crazy as he sounds: His lawyers have asked the Arkansas Public Defender Commission to help pay for their client’s defense.

That could cost as much as $100,00-$200,000.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright Jr., who will preside over the trial, has ruled that Muhammad should get paid by the public defender’s commission.

The commission will file an appeal today to the state Supreme Court. A spokesman told us the commission can’t afford to spend all of its money on Muhammad, leaving nothing for indigent defendants.

Muhammad is one of several black Americans who have converted to Islam in hopes of finding salvation through violence.

John Allen Muhammad and a young sidekick went on a rampage in the Washington, D.C., area in 2002 and killed 10 people.

Muhammad was executed last November.

Our Muhammad may have had the Washington sniper in mind during the attack in Little Rock. Fortunately, we were spared a bloodbath here, but the prosecution hopes the punishment will be the same.