Phoenix Suspect in Garland Attack Demands New Lawyer, Complains About DNA Testing

A Phoenix man held in connection with the May 3 attack in Garland, Texas, wants a new lawyer and claims in a handwritten letter to the court that the FBI took two DNA samples from him without permission.

The document was released publicly on September 1 and obtained by New Times after Arizona U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton denied a motion filed a few days earlier by attorney Daniel Maynard to seal it.

Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, 44, has been held in jail since his June 10 indictment and subsequent arrest by the FBI on June 11. He's been accused by a federal grand jury of three felonies: conspiracy, interstate transportation of firearms with intent to commit a felony, and making false statements.

Authorities accuse him of providing assistance to Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi in the attack on the "Muhammed Art Exhibit and Contest" held by anti-Islam activists at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland. A security guard was wounded before Simpson and Soofi were shot and killed. Kareem allegedly played a significant role in planning the attack, provided the rifles used by Simpson and Soofi, and helped train them with at least one target-shooting session in the desert.

"In court on 8-13-15 he told me that anything that come out of my mouth is a lie." — Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem on his court-appointed attorney, Daniel Maynard.

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Evidence in the case includes documents and videos on Kareem's computer that "advocated ideologically motivated violence against civilians," court records show. Prosecutors say he also considered planting explosives at the Super Bowl held at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale in February but never followed through with the idea.

In the August 17 letter, filed in court on August 25, Kareem alleges that the attorney assigned to him, Daniel Maynard, hasn't returned his calls, seems to be working with the FBI, and has encouraged him to cooperate with authorities rather than defend the case. Kareem says he's tried to call Maynard at his office, but "they hang up." Instead, he claims he's talked to a woman he doesn't know named "Marry," whom he came to understand isn't part of his legal defense.

From his uncorrected letter: "My attorney told me to tell her everything about my life and this case. Everything I told her somehow the FBI know it. I thought she was his legal assistant. She's not. She came up to the jail and told me that the FBI need to take my DNA again. I ask her why do they need it again. She saide something happen to it."

A week later, on July 24, Kareem explains, Maynard and the FBI showed up to "get the DNA."

"I ask why am I giving DNA again," Kareem writes. "He told me that I pick up one of the gun's that's why they are taking it again."

He was brought to a room where a DNA sample was taken. His attorney and the FBI refused to answer more of his questions, he claims. With Maynard's help, he alleges, the FBI had him sign a document that he wasn't allowed to read.

"My attorney told me he would tell me later," he writes, adding that Maynard brushed him off when he again asked what was going on.

"In court on 8-13-15 he told me that anything that come out of my mouth is a lie," Kareem writes. "I need an attorney that is going to help me in my case."

He further claims that he didn't know the FBI was taking his DNA for use in the case and that he didn't agree to give any DNA samples.

"I was lie to by my attorney and Marry and FBI," he states.

Bolton set a hearing on September 21 to consider Kareem's request for a new attorney.

Kareem, a local scofflaw with convictions for felony DUI, failure to appear in court, and other offenses, was born Decarus Thomas before he legally changed his name in 2013 following his conversion to Islam. The owner of a small carpet-cleaning business, he worked and volunteered at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix before his arrest; Simpson and Soofi also attended the mosque.  Usama Shami, president of the ICCP, told New Times in June that the FBI showed him several pictures of men during their investigation of the attack and that Shami recognized some of them as friends of Elton Simpson's.

According to a detention brief filed by prosecutors, Simpson and Soofi timed their arrival to coincide with the end of the Muhammed-drawing contest at about 6:45 p.m., when the about 125 attendees would be walking out to the parking lot. They had more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition and six weapons, including handguns and three rifles. Kareem, however, apparently stayed behind in Phoenix.

Simpson, Soofi, and Kareem all were seen by an informant "handling several of these exact weapons," the brief states.

Maynard didn't return a message left for him on Tuesday. The Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office didn't respond to a request for a comment.

UPDATE: The Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office returned the message, saying the office has no comment or statement.
UPDATE 2: September 22 — Kareem and his lawyer seem to have come to terms. At a hearing on Monday, Kareem withdrew his motion to appoint new counsel, and his new request was granted. 

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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.