By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
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Padilla disagreed, telling the judge he was upset with Reidy because the attorney attended court hearings without him.
"There are many times in which he does come to court without you, which is not [unusual]...." Tyson answered. "Now, is there another objection you have?"
"I don't want him to defend me no more," Padilla replied.
Tyson agreed to give Padilla a new attorney in light of the bar complaint. Later, prosecutors consolidated the charge of battery on a law enforcement officer with the earlier gun charge. He pleaded guilty and received 364 days in jail plus one year of probation.
After serving his time, Padilla took a job at a Taco Bell in Davie, where his girlfriend, Stultz, worked. Three years later the two wed at the Broward County Courthouse, just down the street from where guards had once feared for their lives in a scuffle along a metal railing.
Not long after his marriage to Stultz in 1996, Padilla began to study the Koran. It's unclear how he was introduced to Islam. Some government documents and media reports claim it was during his time in jail in Broward County, while others say he was set on that path by a Taco Bell co-worker, a Pakistani-American named Muhammed Javed who was active in the local Muslim community. But by 1998, Padilla was regularly attending Masjid Al-Iman, a mosque near Sunrise Boulevard, just west of Interstate 95, in Fort Lauderdale. He went by the name "Ibrahim."
Among the other attendees of the mosque was Hassoun, a 36-year-old Lebanese man who came to the United States on a student visa in 1989. He lived in Sunrise with his Saudi Arabian wife, Nahed Mohammed Wannous. Together they had a little boy, Abed, who was born at Broward General Medical Center on April 14, 1992.
By the time Hassoun met Padilla, federal agents were listening to their phone calls on wiretaps. According to a recently unsealed report by Andrew G. Arena, the FBI's section chief for counterterrorism, Hassoun was a member of Al-Gama Al-Islamiyya (AGAI), an international terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda. AGAI's leader is Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, known as "The Blind Sheikh."
Federal officials targeted Hassoun when, in the early Nineties, Rahman called the Sunrise man several times from his wiretapped home telephone in New Jersey. Rahman is currently serving 65 years in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The wiretap on Hassoun's phone was authorized through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows for warrantless wiretaps in cases of national security.
In 1996 Hassoun was the registered Florida agent for the Benevolence International Foundation, a nonprofit organization that the U.S. Treasury Department now claims raised money for al-Qaeda. He was also the North American distributor for Australia-based magazine Nida'ul Islam, or The Call to Islam, which the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council described in March 1999 as "the voice of a range of international extremists and terrorists intent on the propagation of a war of terror and destruction against Israel and the West."
"The FBI has identified Hassoun as a focal point for communications among persons associated with AGAI and with the international radical fundamentalist community," Arena wrote in his report. "He has been a major fundraiser for extremist Muslim causes in Chechnya and Bosnia and, since as early as 1994, is believed to have recruited 'freedom fighters,' or 'mujahideen,' for those conflicts."
One of those alleged freedom fighters was Youssef, an Egyptian-born U.S. citizen who worked as a flight attendant for American Airlines for an unspecified amount of time. When he left the airline, he took a universal cockpit key, according to Arena's report.
Another mujahideen was a medium-built Puerto Rican-American named Ibrahim. Padilla moved to Egypt in 1998, leaving his wife in South Florida, according to a Department of Defense report. Soon he married a Muslim woman and became known as "Muhajir," an Arabic word meaning "immigrant."
In a separate government report about Padilla dated August 27, 2002, Michael H. Mobbs, a senior Department of Defense official, claimed Padilla had traveled in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan from 1999 to 2001. "While in Afghanistan in 2001," Mobbs wrote, "Padilla met with senior Osama bin Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah. Padilla and an associate approached Zubaydah with their proposal to conduct terrorist operations within the United States. Zubaydah directed Padilla and his associate to travel to Pakistan for training from al-Qaeda operatives in wiring explosives.... Padilla's discussion with Zubaydah specifically included the plan of Padilla and his associate to detonate a 'radiological dispersal device' (also known as a 'dirty bomb') within the United States, possibly Washington, D.C."
(In court documents filed in December 2005, the Department of Defense identified Padilla's accomplice as Ethiopian Binyam Ahmed Muhammad, who is now being detained at Guantánamo Bay. An American lawyer representing Muhammad claims the purported link to Padilla came only after his client was tortured in Morocco, where he was allegedly taken by U.S. authorities. Muhammad reported being beaten, shackled in painful positions, and cut with a blade on his chest and penis.)
The report detailing Padilla's travels throughout the Middle East attributed information to two detained al-Qaeda members. Although Mobbs claimed the information was independently verified, he also admitted that one of the unnamed sources "was being treated with various types of drugs," according to the report.