The man accused of trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives hidden in his shoes pleaded guilty Friday after declaring himself a follower of Osama bin Laden.
Richard C. Reid, who surprised prosecutors earlier this week by deciding to plead guilty to avoid trial, said he did not recognize the American justice system but agreed he did commit the acts outlined in the indictment against him.
The 29-year-old British citizen was accused of trying to murder 197 passengers and crew members aboard the American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami in December. The flight was diverted to Boston.
U.S. District Judge William Young asked Reid: "Did you intend to blow that plane up and kill the people on that plane and yourself?"
Reid replied, "Yeah" and smirked.
When asked if he agreed with the government's description of what happened on the plane, Reid laughed as he said: "Basically I got on the plane with a bomb. Basically I tried to ignite it. Basically, yeah, I intended to damage the plane."
Reid almost certainly would have been convicted of the charges against him, says CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen. All those people on the plane saw him do what the government said he did. But the government now saves the time and money of a trial and can move immediately to work on trying to turn Reid into a government witness against al Qaeda.
Federal prosecutors told the judge they would recommend a sentence of 60 years to life in prison, in accordance with federal guidelines. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 8.
Cohen expects Reid's attorneys to try to convince the judge that a sentence that long is too harsh for a crime that didn't harm anyone. There is also the possibility that Reid now will deal with the feds and give them information in exchange for a lighter sentence.
The judge refused a request by Reid to strike language in the indictment that mentioned he'd been trained by al Qaeda forces.
In court documents submitted late Thursday, prosecutors said the al Qaeda allegations are supported by witnesses "with personal knowledge of Reid's presence at al Qaeda training camps" and "corroborating circumstantial evidence."
The FBI has said it believes Reid had help making the bomb from "an al Qaeda bomb maker." Authorities have also said they found unidentified human hair and a palm print on the explosives.
The judge told Reid that at his sentencing he would hear more testimony from the government on Reid's ties to al Qaeda.
"I don't care. ... I'm a follower of Osama bin Laden. I'm an enemy of your country and I don't care," Reid said.
Reid pleaded guilty to eight charges: attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction; attempted homicide; placing an explosive device on an aircraft; attempted murder; two counts of interference with flight crew and attendants; attempted destruction of an aircraft; and using a destructive device during a crime of violence.
A ninth charge, attempted wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle, a charge filed under the new USA Patriot Act passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, was tossed out by the judge in June.
When asked by the judge why he pleaded guilty, he said: "Because I know what I've done. ... At the end of the day I know that I done the actions."
Reid's attempt to blow up the plane just three months after the Sept. 11 attacks rattled an already shaky flying public.
Federal authorities had been preparing for a high-profile, tight-security trial, where Reid's alleged links to the al Qaeda terrorism network would be presented.
But Reid stunned prosecutors when he said he wanted to plead guilty to avoid the publicity of trial and the affect it would have on his family.
When the judge asked Reid he had consulted with his lawyers about his guilty plea and if he understood, Reid replied: "I don't recognize your system so how can I be satisfied?"