DEARBORN, Mich. – The California man accused of plotting to blow up a Detroit-area mosque rejected his court-appointed counsel Friday, upset that the attorney is a Shiite Muslim and a “patron” of the Islamic center where he was arrested.
Roger Stockham, 63, standing in handcuffs and wearing an olive drab jail-issued jumpsuit in a Dearborn courtroom, rejected defense attorney Mark Haidar and was appointed a new attorney during a hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to try him. The hearing was then delayed until next Friday so that new attorney Matthew Evans could prepare.
Stockham, who has described himself as a Vietnam War vet-turned-Islamic holy warrior, has a history of violent run-ins with the law dating back to the 1970s. He faces charges of making a false report or threat of terrorism and one count of possessing explosives with an unlawful intent after being arrested Jan. 24 near the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.
“I reject my appointed counsel. He is a Shiite,” referring to a sect of Islam practiced at the Dearborn mosque, one of the nation’s largest. “He is a patron of the mosque.”
There are two main sects within Islam, Shiite and Sunni. The schism between Sunni and Shiite stems from the early days of Islam and arguments over the Prophet Muhammad’s successors as the faith’s spiritual leader.
Haidar didn’t attend Friday’s hearing because he was out of town. In a telephone interview, he said he had told Stockham about his faith and that he has attended services at the mosque. He said he was surprised by Stockham’s decision.
“The judge probably shouldn’t be listening to someone with his mental history,” Haidar said. “I would think he shouldn’t be the one making the decision at this point.”
Haidar said he had planned to have another attorney request a competency evaluation for Stockham based on his history of mental illness. Evans said he wouldn’t do that because Stockham understands the charges and court process and can participate in his defense.
Stockham “definitely has strong convictions, but I think he’s sane,” Evans said.