UNC Hit-And-Run Suspect Says He Plans To Plead Guilty
Posted September 19, 2006 6:09 a.m. EDT
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. — A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate who admits to trying to run over several students on the campus in March said in court Wednesday that he plans to plead guilty to the charges against him.
Mohammed Taheri-Azar faces nine counts of attempted first-degree murder and nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury with intent to kill in connection with the March 3 incident at a popular campus meeting place called "The Pit," in which he allegedly plowed through the area in a sport utility vehicle, hitting nine people.
If convicted, he could spend more than 100 years in prison.
"I intend to plead guilty to all 18 charges," Taheri-Azar told Orange County Superior Court Judge Carl Fox.
On Wednesday, Taheri-Azar also requested to represent himself, saying, "I find simply speaking the truth is not a difficult thing to do, and I intend to do it for the court."
He agreed, however, to keep his court-appointed attorney, James Williams, after Fox told him he would first need to undergo a mental-health evaluation. Taheri-Azar said the therapists he had met while he was in prison "don't appear to be very good psychologists and psychiatrists in my opinion."
The 23-year-old said he also spends his days praying and reading the Muslim holy book, the Quran. He also spends time writing 25-page letters to the media about why he carried out his attack.
His most recent set of letters was addressed to The Daily Tar Heel, UNC-Chapel Hill's student newspaper, in which he wrote that feels "no remorse" for steering the SUV through the Pit.
He wrote that the act was his way of getting back at "American taxpayers and their government" for the United States' role in the killing of Muslims around the world.
In the letters, Taheri-Azar also admits that the SUV was not even his first choice. He said he wanted to get a handgun and open fire, but was afraid it would somehow malfunction.
The one question by a Daily Tar Heel reporter that he does not completely answer is whether he considered himself a terrorist. In the letter, he called Mohammed Atta, one of the terrorists in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a role model, but stops short of labeling himself.
Taheri-azar has written that he feels no remorse and that he has not allowed his family to visit him since March 24, calling them "American taxpayers."
During court proceedings on Wednesday, Taheri-Azar's two sisters sat quietly in the courtroom with tears streaming down their cheeks. When Fox asked him about his family, Tarheri-Azar stood up, scanned the room and never acknowledged them.
"I have not allowed those individuals to visit me, your honor," said Taheri-Azar, who family members have described as an average guy who followed NASCAR and who liked to fish and camp with his friends.
Taher-Azar, who is currently being held at Raleigh's Central Prison under a $5.5 million bond, is expected to be back in court in September.