MIAMI – An attorney for a Key West man described by the FBI as an ISIS sympathizer who plotted to detonate a backpack bomb at a beach is seeking a mental competency hearing for his client.
Defense attorney Richard Della Fera, who represents Harlem Suarez, said in a letter to the court Thursday that he believes his client "may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent." Della Fera is asking a federal judge that Suarez be given a psychiatric examination before a hearing to determine whether he is fit to stand trial.
The 23-year-old suspect is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He was arrested in July.
According to a criminal complaint, Suarez, who is also known as Almlak Benitez, caught the attention of the FBI in April after posting extremist rhetoric and promoting the Islamic State group through posts on his Facebook page.
One post read: "Stand up with us my brother. Stand up with the black flag and the AK with 10 mag, fight with us, be a gangster with us, kill our enemies and convert to Islam now in USA."
The complaint said Suarez later told an FBI informant that he wanted to make a "timer bomb."
The FBI said Suarez purchased items for the bomb, which contained galvanized nails. He intended to place the bomb in a backpack and detonate it using a cellphone, the complaint said.
Investigators said Suarez planned to bury the bomb at a public beach in Key West and detonate it. He met with an informant at a Homestead hotel and showed him the homemade bomb, the complaint said.
According to the complaint, Suarez told FBI informants that he was making an ISIS recruiting video before the attack.
The complaint said Suarez had planned other attacks before deciding to bomb a Key West beach, including a Fourth of July attack in South Beach or in Marathon.
Suarez faces life in prison if convicted.
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