Florida Keys

Terror suspect accused of plotting to blow up beach wants to fire lawyers

Harlem Suarez, in a selfie he posted to Facebook before July 27, 2015.
Harlem Suarez, in a selfie he posted to Facebook before July 27, 2015.

A Key West man charged with plotting to blow up a crowded beach with a backpack bomb no longer wants his attorneys to represent him two weeks before he is set to stand trial.

Harlem Suarez, 25, met Thursday with his attorneys, Richard Della Fera and Joshua Entin, and told them he doesn’t want them handling his case any longer, according to a filing in U.S. District Court.

“He was not clear as to whether he intended to obtain new counsel or represent himself,” the lawyers wrote in a motion to withdraw filed Friday.

A hearing is set for 1 p.m. Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale before U.S. Magistrate Lurana Snow and Suarez’s trial is still set for Jan. 23 in Key West.

This isn’t the first time the client-lawyer relationship has hit the rocks in a case that could end in a life sentence if Suarez is convicted of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Last June, Suarez refused to cooperate with his attorneys to the point they asked to leave the case, but after a June 21 closed-door hearing, Suarez said he wanted to keep working with the firm.

“He understood the need to trust in and cooperate with his lawyer,” Snow wrote in a ruling dismissing the request.

Suarez was arrested July 27, 2015, after undercover agents said they caught him trying to buy explosives. Federal prosecutors say he identifies himself as a member of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant while his lawyers depict him as a very immature young man with a low intellect incapable of pulling off the crime.

But government informants said Suarez identified as a member of the Islamic State and told them, “one day I will cook American” ... “in cages” ... “flaming.”

Suarez reportedly told undercover FBI informants on June 3, 2015, he wanted to orchestrate a terrorist attack at a Fourth of July event at either a beach in Marathon or South Beach or both, according to the indictment. He also reportedly talked of planting bombs beneath police cars and possibly targeting hotels, saying, “they would know, that you know, it’s coming from Islamic State.”

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen