South Florida man accused in terror plot hand-writes motion to dismiss charges

Harlem Suarez, 24, scheduled to go to trial July 11


KEY WEST, Fla. – A federal judge in Key West has refused a motion to dismiss the terrorism case against Harlem Suarez, 24, the Stock Island resident accused of plotting an explosive attack on a South Florida beach.  

In a surprising twist, the unusual motion did not come from Suarez's attorney, but from Suarez himself, handwritten in both English and Spanish on 13 pages of loose leaf paper.

"The inexperienced FBI agent rushed into the matter too quick and advacen (sic) into an arrest leaving a gap available for debate," Suarez wrote in the complaint.  He argues that he was "acting under coercion and in fear of death due to intimidation after the FBI agent continuously and persistently pressured him…"

FBI agents arrested Suarez last July, alleging he arrived to take delivery of what he believed was an explosive device. The three-month investigation had begun with tips about Suarez's pro-ISIS posts on social media, calling himself Almlak Benitez, a convert to and recruiter for the Islamic State.

The federal criminal complaint details how Suarez worked with a confidential informant to plan and obtain a backpack bomb to be detonated via cellular phone on a crowded beach in either Key West or Miami Beach on a holiday weekend.  

Suarez has remained in custody, charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and providing material support to a terrorist organization.

Suarez filed the motion to dismiss May 25. United States District Court Judge Jose Martinez issued the denial the next day on grounds it had been filed without Suarez's attorney.

"Defendant is represented by counsel," wrote Judge Martinez. "All pleadings must be filed by counsel of record."

Suarez's attorney, Richard Della Fera, is out of town and could not be reached for comment.

The handwritten motion contains improper grammar and misspelled words, but follows the formal outline and legal language used in professionally filed cases. It cites jurisdiction, a "motion to compel discovery," which is a request for evidence against him. Suarez even cites previous case law to support his arguments.

"There is '0' evidence (substantial) that outlines the accused as a political extremist radicalized Muslim or element of conflict," wrote Suarez. "Defendant's admission during the FBI interrogation was exercised under coercion and duress in violation of the Miranda rights."    

It is unclear who might have assisted Suarez in researching and writing his motion.

"All charges should be dropped in good faith and in the interest of justice," he wrote.

Suarez is scheduled to go on trial for the federal terrorism charges July 11.

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