Attorneys for Topeka man withdraw from defense in bomb plot

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Two public defenders withdrew Friday from representing a Topeka man who has pleaded guilty to plotting to bomb a northeast Kansas military installation.

U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia granted the lawyers’ request to withdraw during a brief hearing for John T. Booker Jr., 21, and plans to appoint a private attorney for him. Attorney Melody Brannon said she and fellow public defender Kirk Redmond had developed a potential conflict of interest with Booker but declined to comment further after the hearing.

Murguia had a short, private conference with Booker and the attorneys before concluding that Booker wouldn’t get the representation he wanted because he didn’t trust his attorneys.

“This line of communication has been irretrievably broken,” Murguia said.

Booker pleaded guilty in February to two felony charges under an agreement with prosecutors for him to serve 30 years in prison. He acknowledged in court that his plot against Fort Riley, about 60 miles west of Topeka, was designed to help the Islamic State group. He initially faced three charges and faced a potential life prison sentence.

Murguia has yet to schedule a sentencing hearing.

Booker was arrested outside the Army post in April 2015 as he was trying to arm what he believed was a 1,000-pound bomb in a van. He had been plotting the bombing with two contacts who actually were confidential FBI sources.

Redmond said during Booker’s hearing in February that Booker had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which is characterized by mood swings that can affect functioning. Booker confirmed in court that he was taking medication.

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