CHICAGO – A Hillside teenager accused of attempting to bomb a Loop bar appeared relaxed and upbeat Thursday in federal court, even cracking a joke when asked about facing life imprisonment.
During his arraignment, Adel Daoud, a 19-year-old high school graduate, was asked a series of routine questions, including whether he understood that he faced up to life in prison if convicted of the terrorism-related charges. Daoud responded by asking the judge whether it could get any worse than that.
His attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, later said that his client’s “joke” seemed to reflect his age and understanding of what’s happening to him.
“I think he said something like, ‘There can’t be any more than that,’” said Durkin, explaining the remark. “... I don’t think he believes this is happening to him. He’s a young kid.”
During the questioning by U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, Daoud also appeared to laugh slightly when he was asked if he was under the care of a psychiatrist.
“I don’t think so, no,” he said.
Daoud smiled throughout the half-hour hearing, often fidgeting and rocking lightly from leg to leg as he has done before in court. He waved to his parents sitting in the front row.
Later, he formally entered a plea of not guilty to federal charges filed against him last month that he attempted to use a weapon of mass destruction and attempted to damage and destroy a building by means of an explosive.
Federal authorities charge that Daoud spent months researching and posting about the violent world of jihad and how he was bent on killing Americans. Authorities said the native Chicagoan ultimately plotted to bomb a car just outside the Cactus Bar & Grill, but the FBI was onto him months earlier and secretly recorded his every step.
Last month Daoud allegedly stood in a Loop alley, punching the trigger of a fake bomb – constructed by the FBI and placed inside a Jeep – before agents swooped in to arrest him.
His father, who along with two sheiks at his son’s school had counseled him against violent jihad, made brief remarks after Thursday’s hearing. He appeared near tears as he proclaimed that his child was beloved by many.
“He’s the best kid,” Ahmed Daoud said. “And not just because he’s my son.”
“He would never hurt a fly,” his mother, Mona Daoud, later added.
Durkin repeated his criticism of the government’s case, saying he will argue that the undercover agents drew Daoud into the plot, even telling him that they were in contact with their own sheik for guidance.
“This was not his idea,” Durkin said.