Phoenix Man Held in Muhammad Cartoon Contest Attack Accuses Jail of Denying Medical Care

A Phoenix man held in connection with the attack on the "Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest" in Garland, Texas, claims that he's been denied proper medical care in the Maricopa County Jail and demands immediate access to a doctor.

Prosecutors accuse Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, a 44-year-old carpet cleaner, of helping plan the May 3 attack on the cartoon-drawing contest at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland. The event, led by anti-Islamic activist Pamela Geller, offered a $10,000 prize for the best drawing of the Muslim prophet. Just before it was over, Phoenix residents residents Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi showed up in body armor and started shooting. After wounding a security guard, they were shot and killed by one or more police officers. An investigation is ongoing, and authorities haven't yet said whether the attack was linked to any known terrorist group.

Kareem, born Decarus Thomas, legally changed his name a few years ago, obtained the semi-automatic rifles used in the attack, and took the two attackers to the desert at least once for shooting practice, prosecutors allege. Authorities claim Kareem had considered attacking or helping with attacks on other targets, including on an abandoned plan to kill people at the Super Bowl earlier this year in Glendale.

"According to our records, [Kareem's] needs are being attended to adequately." — Lisa Allen, Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman.

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Kareem was arrested in early June and has been in solitary confinement at the county jail ever since.

Kareem's home computer allegedly contained documents and videos that "advocated ideologically motivated violence against civilians," court records state.

He's apparently made up with his court-funded private lawyer, Daniel Maynard, whom he accused in a handwritten motion last month of working against his interests. On Friday, Maynard filed a motion on behalf of Kareem stating that his client made five official "health needs requests" to jail staff for several ailments in June and July, but has been ignored.

A diabetic, Kareem has not received a "proper diet" and has been refused a requested examination by a doctor, his lawyer claims. Kareem's vision is deteriorating, and he's been seeing "black spots," possibly because of his diabetes, Maynard wrote in the motion. Kareem has "foot pain," too. But jail officials allegedly won't take him to a doctor. 

Kareem complained twice that he had "very bad pain" from a tooth that probably needed to be pulled or at least looked at by a dentist, Maynard wrote.

One guard told him that he should be receiving a specialized meal plan and that he would try to make that happen, according to his attorney. Kareem has "started to receive additional food to deal with the fluctuation in his sugar," Maynard wrote.

However, the jail "has not provided the proper nutrition that is necessary to control his diabetes," and Kareem's declining vision "is affecting his ability to read and thus to assist his counsel in defense," the motion states.

Maynard says jail officials are demonstrating "deliberate indifference" to Kareem's health needs in violation of federal law. He wants U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to order that the U.S. Marshal's Service, which oversees federal inmates held in county jail, immediately allow Kareem to be examined by a doctor and to make sure he's provided with "adequate nutrition."

Medical care at the jail was a disaster until reform efforts began a few years ago. Now it has improved to the extent that the jail medical system won the National Commission on Correctional Health Care's "Facility of the Year" award.

Lisa Allen, spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, which oversees the jail, says she can't comment directly on Kareem's healthcare because of medical-privacy laws.

"Inmates make an awful lot of stink about a lot of things, and most of the time, most of it isn't true," she avers. "According to our records, his needs are being attended to adequately."

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern