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Man Charged with al Shabaab Attack Plan Cited White Noise in MDC Says Will Stay Passive

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 28 – Cholo Abdi Abdullah is charged with planning with al Shabaab to attack the US with a commercial jet. 

 On September 5, 2023 he appeared in court saying he has lost faith in lawyers, and intially saying he now wants to represent himself. Inner City Press was there, the only media in the courtroom.

  U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Analisa Torres advised him that without a lawyer he would be at a major disadvantage.

After a break, it was agreed he said confer with CUNY law professor Ramzi Kassem, and be back in court on September 19 at 3:30 pm. There is more to be reported but for now, here, this is it.

On November 21, Inner City Press went at 9 am to Abdullah's Faretta hearing. But it was asked to leave the courtroom, from 9:22 am to 9:50 am. It has filed a letter to get the transcript of the closed proceeding, here.

After being readmitted to the courtroom, Abdullah said he wants to represent himself at trial and "stay passive," allowing the government to make its case. Apparently more reasons were given in the sealed session. A stand-by counsel was appointed, who quickly asked for a co-standby.

   Cholo Abdi Abdullah then described his conditions of confinement on an upper floor of the MDC in Brooklyn, a floor with only two other prisoners, whom he hasn't been able to see or speak with. He said the white noise is turned on so loud he cannot sleep, and doctors cannot hear him when he describes his conditions. And still - no transcript of the sealed portion of the proceeding.

On December 5, with the promised transcript STILL not in the docket, the US Attorney's Office wrote in to say that "contrary to the defendant's claims, he is not the only inmate in his housing unit. The BOP has implemented a white noise machine to facilitate compliance with the Special Administrative Measures in place. The BOP has used the white noise machine since his arrival in the MDC in or about December 2020."

On December 7, Judge Torres asked more questions, for December 11 answer: "MEMO ENDORSEMENT as to Cholo Abdi Abdullah on re: [97] At the status conference on November 21, 2023, Defendant stated that he is now the only inmate on the floor of his unit. He also said that the white noise is interfering with his ability to communicate with his doctor. Accordingly, by December 11, 2023, the Government shall submit another letter to the Court (1) describing the location of the other inmates in Defendant's unit; and (2) explaining why white noise is necessa1y to "facilitate compliance" with the Special Administrative Measures, which concern communications between cells and in the cellblock area. The Clerk of Court is directed to mail a copy of this order to Defendant prose. (Signed by Judge Analisa Torres on 12/7/2023) (Copy mailed on 12/7/2023 to Defendant at: Cholo Abdi Abdullah. Reg. No. 76478-054, MDC Brooklyn, METROPOLITAN DETENTION CENTER, P.O. BOX 329002, BROOKLYN, NY 11232)."

  In the portion for which Inner City Press was not ordered out of the courtroom, Abdullah appeared to say there were two others on his floor (we noted that Joshua Schulte is subject to similar Special Administrative Measures).

And on December 11, the US Attorney's Office confirmed, writing in that Abdullah "is currently one of two inmates in his housing unit.. The calls for the defendant and the other SAMs inmate, Joshua Adam Schulte, are directly on top of one another. The BOP informed the Government that both Schulte and the defendant have historically tried to communicate with one another in violation of the SAMs." The white noise, they said, MIGHT end soon after Schulte's February 1, 2024 sentencing....

On December 12, docketed on December 13, Judge Torres said no: "MEMO ENDORSEMENT as to Cholo Abdi Abdullah on [99] LETTER by USA as to Cholo Abdi Abdullah addressed to Judge Analisa Torres from United States of America dated December 11, 2023 re: Response to Court's December 7, 2023 Order. ENDORSEMENT: As stated in the Court's December 7, 2023 order, during last month's status conference, Defendant stated that the white noise in his cell interferes with his ability to communicate with medical personnel. The SAMs do not justify this interference. By December 15, 2023, the Government shall explain to the Court how MDC plans to ensure that Defendant can communicate with medical personnel in light of the white noise and other SAMs. The Government shall also address how Defendant's medical needs are currently being met. The Government shall serve this filing on Defendant. The Clerk of Court is directed to mail a copy of this order to Defendant pro se. SO ORDERED. (Signed by Judge Analisa Torres on 12/12/2023)."

On December 19, the trial was delayed: "v ORDER as to Cholo Abdi Abdullah: The trial currently scheduled for June 3, 2024, is ADJOURNED to October 28, 2024. The parties shall confer and, by January 5, 2024, advise the Court if they seek to amend their proposed briefing schedule for motions. The Clerk of Court is directed to mail a copy of this order to Defendant pro se. (Signed by Judge Analisa Torres on 12/19/2023).

On May 28, a letter from Cholo Abdullah was docketed in which he confirmed that he will not file motion and will remain "passive." He does not want to communicated with through stand-by counsel, but directly: "This is due to my mistrust of any information conveyed to me by any party except the Court."

More on Substack here

  The case is US v. Abdullah, 20-cr-677 (Torres)


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