RALEIGH, N. C. – A mentally ill North Carolina man who was forcibly medicated so he can be prosecuted on charges that he tried to join a terrorist group fighting in Syria could reach a plea deal or go to court in about a month, lawyers said on Tuesday.
“I feel good,” Cary resident, Basit Sheikh said when the federal judge asked how he felt.
After a change of drugs for the treatment of schizophrenia, Sheikh now has the ability to aid in his own legal defense, his lawyer said. Lawyer Joseph Craven said that he and the prosecutor are close to reaching a plea agreement, and we put the dots on the paper.”
U. S. District Judge Terrence Boyle set a trial date for after Labor Day if a deal is not reached. A federal prosecutor told Boyle during 2015 to hear that the prosecution and conviction of the Sheikh was important in the repel-American radicals.
A federal court of appeal ruled in June 2016, that Sheikh should be forcibly injected with anti-psychotic medication so that he could be made competent to defend themselves against persecution.
Sheikh, 34, represents one of the rare cases in which the federal courts approved forced medication. There were only about 77 such cases in federal courts nationwide in the nine years after the 2003 U.S. Supreme court ruling that restricted involuntary medication to certain serious criminal cases, according to a study in 2013 by Georgetown University law professor Susan McMahon.
Sheikh, one of the suburbs of Cary, was arrested in 2013. He was one of the first residents of the U.S. arrested as part of the FBI’s effort to find people before they join terrorist groups fighting in Syria and may return to the battle-hardened radicals.
He is charged with providing material support to a terrorist group. Sheikh could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said earlier.
The Sheikh said that he had not planned to join the fighting, but instead wanted to help refugees and to marry the female nurse in Syria, and thought that he was in contact with on Facebook. That “nurse” was an FBI agent or informant.
Court documents described him as a Pakistan native with permanent, legal residency in the United States.
Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter http://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/emery%20dalesio.