Chicago terror suspect to be sentenced this week

Adel Daoud | FBI

Prosecutors and defense lawyers on Friday recommended starkly different punishments in a long-running Chicago terrorism case before a multiday sentencing hearing that starts Monday and will focus on the 25-year-old defendant's mental health.

Adel Daoud was arrested in a 2012 FBI sting after trying to detonate what he believed was a real bomb outside a Chicago bar that undercover agents told him would destroy much of the block. The bomb was a fake supplied by the agents.

Federal prosecutors asked in a sentencing memo that Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman impose a 40-year prison term, saying hundreds of people would have died had the bombing conspiracy been real.

Prosecutors portrayed Daoud as driven to avenge what he viewed as a war by the West on Muslims. They say he often came up with his own ideas for attacks, including one that involved attaching butcher knives to a truck and then driving it into a crowd. 

In their Friday filing, defense lawyers noted that Daoud has already spent nearly seven years behind bars -- "one-quarter of his life" -- and they asked that he be released after a treatment program for his mental health needs can be developed. Daoud hopes to enter college in 2021, the filing said.

In November, Daoud entered the equivalent of a no-contest plea to terrorism and other charges, including for soliciting the murder of an undercover agent. He faces a maximum life sentence.

The defense says agents manipulated Daoud's fragile mental state, egging the then-teenager on to participate in the plot by reinforcing "his misguided views" and helping him continue "down the rabbit hole of the twisted version of his religion."

After engaging Daoud earlier in 2012, agents urged him to agree to increasingly ominous plots knowing he was psychologically troubled and impressionable, the defense filing argues. At one point, it says, Daoud proposed attacks using "flying cars."

"The FBI (had) every reason to question treating Daoud as a terrorist," it says. "But instead, the FBI embarked on a self-fulfilling sting operation that identified and then weaponized its target."

Prosecutors disputed those claims, saying Daoud showed no signs of mental illness in 2012 and showed so much initiative that agents felt they needed "to slow him down" at times. 

"The defendant needed no convincing to kill," their filing says.   

Coleman in 2016 temporarily deemed Daoud mentally unfit for trial, finding he sincerely believed shadowy figures were out to get him. Daoud had called Coleman "a reptilian overlord" and said his lawyers were in cahoots with the Illuminati.