PHOENIX — A Phoenix man convicted of helping two Islamic State followers in a 2015 attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas argues in an appeal that prosecutors withheld evidence during his trial, including the fact that an undercover FBI agent was at the scene just before the two attackers opened fire outside the anti-Islam event.
A lawyer for 46-year-old Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem argued in the appeal Wednesday that his client was denied a fair trial because prosecutors turned over some of their evidence either after his trial had already started or had concluded. The appeal said his trial attorneys weren’t given enough time to properly review thousands of pages of documents.
Kareem is serving a 30-year prison sentence for providing the guns two of his friends used to open fire outside the event in Garland, Texas. He also was convicted of conspiring to provide support to the Islamic State terror group.
The friends, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, were armed with semi-automatic weapons, body armor and had a copy of the Islamic State flag when they arrived at the anti-Islam event in May 2015. They were killed in a shootout with law enforcement assigned to guard the event, and a security guard was shot in the leg.
Investigators say Kareem, who wasn’t at the contest, had trained Simpson and Soofi on how to use the weapons and watched jihadist videos with them. Kareem testified that he didn’t know his friends were going to attack the contest and didn’t find out about the shooting until after they were killed.
The undercover agent’s presence at the scene was revealed in court records several months after the trial concluded. The agent had exchanged social media messages with Simpson days before the attack and was sitting in a vehicle outside the Garland convention center just as events wrapped up at the contest.
A dark sedan in front of the agent made an abrupt stop. As the agent drove around the car, two men got out and opened fire with military-style rifles. The agent drove away and was later stopped by police, according to court records.
“It is hard to understand how a document that discloses that an FBI agent was at the scene of a terrorist attack and has been in contact with the terrorists days before the attack about the activities that caused the attack cannot have any bearing on this case,” wrote attorney Daniel Drake, who represents Kareem in the appeal.
The agent’s presence at the scene raised questions about whether the government should have been more forthcoming about the agent’s role in the case and whether authorities could have done more to stop the attack.
The U.S. Attorney Office in Phoenix, which prosecuted Kareem, declined to comment Thursday on the allegation that evidence was withheld.
In court documents filed late last year, prosecutors said the information about the undercover officer was classified at the time of the trial.
A lower-court judge who denied an earlier request for a new trial had said Simpson didn’t show that he wanted to attack the contest during his social-media exchanges with the undercover agent.