- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 1, 2011

DETROIT (AP) — A lawyer for a California man accused of plotting to attack a Michigan mosque said Tuesday that he’s concerned about his client’s mental state and that he doesn’t believe his client meant to harm anyone.

Lawyer Mark Haidar told the Associated Press that Roger Stockham, 63, said during a Tuesday meeting at the Wayne County Jail that he didn’t plan to blow up the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.

“He indicated he never meant to hurt anyone at any time and had no intention of blowing up any mosque at any time,” Mr. Haidar said of Mr. Stockham, who has been living in Imperial Beach, Calif.

Mr. Stockham was arrested near the mosque during a Jan. 24 traffic stop. Police said he was wearing a ski mask and had in his car powerful fireworks that are illegal in Michigan.

Mr. Haidar said he hasn’t reviewed the evidence, but based on Mr. Stockham’s history of mental illness, he will request a competency evaluation for him during Friday’s scheduled preliminary examination in district court in Dearborn. Mr. Haidar said he has spoken to the prosecuting attorney and doesn’t expect anyone will testify at the hearing.

Court documents in Vermont show Mr. Stockham pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges stemming from threats made in 2002 against then-President George W. Bush and against veterans facilities in that state.

Mr. Stockham was released in 2005 from the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo., on several conditions, including that he refrain from drinking alcohol and continue psychiatric treatment. The warden of the facility said Mr. Stockham had recovered sufficiently from his mental illness that he wouldn’t pose a danger to the public if he adhered to the conditions of his release.

A Detroit bar manager said Monday that Mr. Stockham was drinking at the bar hours before his arrest. Joe Nahhas of J.S. Fields sports bar, which is near the mosque, said Mr. Stockham described himself as a Vietnam veteran-turned-Muslim holy warrior and that Mr. Stockham said he planned to set off a “big explosion.”

Mr. Nahhas said he called 911 to report the incident, and police have said a tip by a local business leader preceded Mr. Stockham’s arrest.

Mr. Haidar wouldn’t comment on what Mr. Nahhas said about Mr. Stockham, but suggested his client “just had some confusing thoughts.”

“I don’t know that he intended to do anything, other than he’s got this mental history,” Mr. Haidar said. “Maybe he just does things that he doesn’t realize he’s doing.”

Dearborn, located about 10 miles west of Detroit, is the capital of the Detroit area’s Arab-American community, which is one of the largest in the United States. A third of the city’s 100,000 residents trace their roots to the Arab world, and the community includes both Christians and Muslims.

Associated Press writers John Curran in Montpelier, Vt., and Julie Watson in San Diego contributed to this report.

 

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