Accused mall plotter pleads not guilty
BY MEGAN REICHGOTT
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
CHICAGO (AP) - A Muslim convert charged with planning a grenade attack at a Rockford shopping mall also allegedly dreamed of blowing up a federal courthouse and said he wanted to "smoke a judge," the government claims.
But on Tuesday, Derrick Shareef, 22, was calm and respectful as he answered District Judge David Coar's questions before pleading not guilty to charges of plotting to set off grenades in trash cans at CherryVale mall during the holiday shopping rush.
Coar asked about Shareef's education, physical condition and whether he'd ever been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.
"I feel well," said a bearded Shareef, clad in the orange jumpsuit of a federal prisoner.
Shareef, who the government said also goes by the name Talib Abu Salam Ibn Shareef, was arrested Dec. 6 after allegedly meeting an undercover agent to trade stereo speakers for a pistol and four grenades.
A federal complaint claims he planned to "commit acts of violent jihad."
"Any place that's crowded, like a mall is good, anything, any government facility is good," he allegedly told a secret FBI informant when they talked about possible attack targets. "I swear by Allah man, I'm down for it too, I'm down for the cause, I'm down to live for the cause and die for the cause, man."
He also allegedly told the informant he wanted to target a judge or courthouse.
"I want some type of city hall-type stuff right now, federal courthouses," Shareef said, according to the complaint. "I just want to smoke a judge."
Shareef was charged with one count of attempting to damage or destroy a building by fire or explosion and one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
The arson and explosives count carries a possible sentence of five to 20 years in prison. The weapons of mass destruction charge carries a possible sentence of life in prison. Both counts carry a maximum fine of $250,000.
Defense attorney Michael B. Mann waived a formal reading of the charges on Tuesday, but Coar allowed Shareef to read them before entering a plea.
Mann declined to comment on specifics of the case, telling reporters outside the courtroom that he did not want to try the case in the media.
The next court date was a hearing scheduled for Feb. 23, and Coar said he would set a trial date then.
Shareef, who is being held in custody, already has waived preliminary and detention hearings.
He was arrested Dec. 6 after an undercover informant secretly tape-recorded his plans during an FBI-led anti-terrorism task force investigation, and was indicted on Jan. 4.
Prosecutors have said they were convinced Shareef had operated alone and there had been no imminent danger to the public. Shareef was born in the United States and converted to Islam, officials have said.
His last-known address was in Genoa, located between Chicago and Rockford.3
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