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June 3rd, 2011
02:37 PM ET

Lawyer: Dearborn mosque defendant a Muslim convert

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – A man arrested on charges of making terrorist threats against a Dearborn, Michigan mosque will argue that he is a Muslim convert and that it makes little sense for him to attack a Muslim house of worship, his lawyer says.

Roger Stockham, 63, of Imperial Beach,California, was charged with one count of false report or threat of terrorism and one count of explosives - possession of bombs with unlawful intent.

He was arrested in January in the parking lot ofDearborn’s Islamic Center of America. Police say Stockham had fireworks in his car at the time of his arrest and that he planned to use them in an attack.

Stockham has been held in a Wayne County, Michigan jail on $500,000 bond since his arrest. Jury selection for his trial was scheduled to begin last month but was postponed when a judge ordered a competency hearing for Stockham, who has a history of mental illness.

In a recent interview, Stockham’s court-appointed lawyer, Matt Evans, said his client converted to Islam while working as a commercial helicopter pilot in Indonesiain the 1970s after having served in Vietnam.

Evans says his client never intended to attack the Dearborn mosque with explosives. Instead, the lawyer says, Stockham planned to paint an anti-Iraq war message across the mosque’s exterior wall to bring attention to Muslim casualties in Iraq.

Stockham had seen video footage of an American helicopter shooting at people in Iraq, Evans said. Evans said the video, from around two years ago, disturbed Stockham and resonated with him largely because he’s a pilot.

“It was about Muslim casualties in Iraq,” Evans said of his client’s intentions. “This is the largest mosque in North America so this was going to be a symbol to all Muslims that this is going on and that it’s wrong.”

Evans says Stockham’s religion will be part of his defense. The attorney said he did not have names of any friends or imams who could talk about Stockham’s religious commitment.

“He’s not a strict adherent,” the lawyer said, noting that Stockham drinks alcohol, which observant Muslims avoid. “He says his prayers and he knows prayers in Arabic and I know he says them, but I don’t believe he’s really that observant.”

The conservative media-focused website NewsBusters, which says it is devoted to “exposing and combating liberal media bias,” highlighted the omission of Stockham’s religious affiliation in a March CNN.com story about the growing sense of alienation among many Muslims in Dearborn - one of the nation’s largest Muslim enclaves.

The article told of Stockham’s arrest and described fears the incident provoked among local Muslims, who worried about their faith community being targeted.

None of the officials CNN interviewed at the time, which included representatives from the Dearborn Police Department, the Islamic Center of America and other community leaders, mentioned Stockham’s religion.

Asked about it later, some put little stock in Stockham identifying as a Muslim. “Based on what we know, he was here to create an explosion,” said Kassem Allie, the mosque’s executive administrator. “You don’t go into a bank and point a gun at the teller if you’re just going to borrow money.”

Evans, Stockham’s lawyer, denies the fireworks found in Evans’ car were intended for an attack: “He didn’t have matches or a lighter, so this is more about him wanting to make a statement.”

Evans took the case after Stockham requested a new lawyer in January, complaining that his court-appointed counsel was a Shiite Muslim and a patron of the Islamic Center of America. That’s when Evans began representing him.

Evans did not return subsequent calls seeking comment on whether Stockham is a Sunni Muslim. Sunnis and Shiites constitute the two main branches of Islam.

At a February 11 preliminary hearing, a restaurant manager said he heard Stockham threatening to attack the mosque in January. The manager, Joseph Nahhas, testified that Stockham referred to himself as a “mujahedeen,” an Arabic word for Muslim fighter.

According to a court transcript, Nahhas said Stockham told him that “he is going to make history and the history he’s going to make is [a] big explosion.”

“I asked him where [is] the explosion?” Nahhas said. “He said, ‘Here, big explosion tonight.’ I wanted to know where is here, and he said, ‘Here, there and the mosque.’”

Nahhas said he deduced that Stockham was referring to the Islamic Center of America, located a few blocks from the restaurant. Nahhas said he called the threat into law enforcement. Dearborn police arrested Stockham in the mosque’s parking lot later that day.

Evans said Nahhas misheard his client at the restaurant.

Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the Wayne County, Michigan, prosecutor's office, said she couldn’t comment on the case, including whether Stockham’s faith would be a factor.

Stockham has a criminal record and a history of struggling with mental health.

In 1986, he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for planting a pipe bomb at the Reno Cannon International Airport, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. The pipe bomb was safely disarmed, the paper reported.

Stockham was released in 1991 on parole, though his parole was revoked at least once, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke.

In 2003, Stockham was charged in federal court with eight counts of making threats - some of which allegedly involved explosives - against a veterans’ center employee and the U.S.president, though it’s unclear which president he allegedly threatened.

In a plea deal, Stockham was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed to a hospital for mental health treatment, according to records from the U.S. District Court in Vermont, where he was charged.

In 2005, Stockham was released from a medical facility for federal prisoners in Missouri on the condition that he reside in transitional housing, take medication prescribed by a psychiatrist and refrain from using illegal drugs and alcohol, among other criteria.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Islam • Michigan

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. اراضي للبيع في الاردن

    The West got corrupted much now but it still has the remaining base of Judeo-Christian tradition as the source of its strength. You can't draw true lasting strength by just mimicking the West's outer shells such as cleverness, technology or the business stuff.

    February 23, 2012 at 4:35 am |
  2. اراضي للبيع في الاردن

    Muslims, you can't overtake the West unless you know what's in the Bible firsthand. The West got corrupted much now but it still has the remaining base of Judeo-Christian tradition as the source of its strength. You can't draw true lasting strength by just mimicking the West's outer shells such as cleverness, technology or the business stuff.

    February 14, 2012 at 6:03 am |
  3. Weight Conversion

    A man arrested on charges of making terrorist threats against a Dearborn, Michigan mosque . It will also make you understand the best strength of the Western conscience and character and the Jewish wisdom and intelligence..

    July 2, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  4. FairGarden

    @Jason, Jesus gives a transformed life, a new heart, to everyone who genuinely trusts in Him so the believers in Jesus will live like Him on earth. Claiming the name of Christian is nothing. One must be born again, born anew, by God's Sprit to be saved. Salvation is free, but following Jesus costs everything, even life itself. Jesus alone is worth to live for and to die for.

    June 7, 2011 at 6:20 am |
  5. FairGarden

    @Jason, you are not going to Paradise because you don't trust Jesus as the sole Savior. Fear your own death or trust in Jesus completely. A genuine Muslims don't imagine about shaking hands with infidels in Paradise unless you are an Islamic cult. You should invest yourself in bringing religious freedom in the Islamic land if you have any honesty. Your statstics are wrong. Many of 1.5 billion Muslims are illiterate; they can't read, especially Arabic, especially the women. We were born into the Adamic race because of God's mercy; if we sin on our own like Adam did( we all do that practically), none of us will get saved. We were born as a race so many of us can get saved by God's grace. God takes care of all true innocent beings, you must trust Him because He is a just God. No, your evil and my evil cannot be atoned for except by the death of Jesus God's Son. Our little goodies are only filth before the holy God. He would not have to send His Son if we can save ourselves. We can't. Jason, you are not seeing your own sin as you should. That's the mankind's deepest problem. Honest humans admit the guilt.

    June 7, 2011 at 6:13 am |
    • Jason

      Ma'am, at this point, I am going to cite my sources, because your world perspective seems VERY narrow. You are trying to say my statistics are wrong, yet, I know them to be right, because out of the 6 people I could verify at that point in time, 3 had read the New Testament, 2 Had read the Old Testament, and all had read, or are reading Qur'an. Yes, I realize that 6 people is not enough to make a global statistic, and I never claimed it was a global statistic. I simply asked you to compare my friends and family, to your own close friends and family. 100% of us have read or are reading Qur'an, 50% of us have read the bible, and 33% of us have read the old testament, now that's out of the 6 people that I could verify with as late as it was when I replied.

      Next, we'll address your issue with thinking that most of the Muslim Population is Illiterate. Please see these pages:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisation_of_the_Islamic_Conference
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Organisation_of_the_Islamic_Conference_member_states_by_population
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_world
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_religious_groups

      Now, as you can see from the above, provided you've read them carefully. that MOST Islamic countries have education, and literacy rates average 85-90% these days for countries outside of the GCC states. Ironically, that's about the same for the other "missionary" religion, Christianity. Since, as you will probably well know, Missionaries bring Christianity to Africa as well, which is where most of the illiteracy on both sides of the fence are taking place. So, out of your 2.2billion followers, if say 15% are illiterate, and of Islams 1.5billion followers 15% are also illiterate, which side has more "illiterate" people?

      Next, I find it quite odd that you would bring being able to read Arabic into this, as there are many translated versions of Qur'an freely available. Just as your Bible was translated out of Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew, Qur'an was translated out of Arabic. Lets look at this for a moment too, You have 3 far older, far closer to dead, languages to translate out of. There's really only a handful of people left that can translate old Aramaic, old Latin, and old Hebrew properly, however, there's MANY people who can translate Old Arabic, since Arabic hasn't changed much in the 1400 years since Qur'an was given. Taking, this, plus the fact that Qur'an can be compared from todays manuscripts to the oldest manuscripts available and you can see there is no changes, Qur'an seems to me to be more complete with less room for error than your Bible. Try asking Vatican City/The pope for access to the oldest biblical manuscripts, and it doesn't matter who you are, you're going to get told no.

      I would also like to point out at this juncture, that while there are illiterate Muslims, a lot of those Illiterate ones do memorize the prayers and their meanings with the help of their friends, family, and Imams. Just because someone is illiterate, does not mean that they can't have someone read them Qur'an, and recite to them the beautiful words that God gave Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This is why it was originally written in poetic Arabic, because it's beautiful, and it makes people want to listen, and when people want to listen,. they also want to understand.

      Next, lets broach the subject of your wording in regards to sin "We all do that practically", no, we all sin, every last one of us (besides newborns who are unable to speak, unable to comprehend, etc), it's impossible not to, since humans are flawed and have been given free-will. However, you seek salvation by asking Jesus to forgive you, and we seek salvation by asking God to forgive us. We put nothing before god, no idols, no middle-men, etc. God, being the all seeing, all powerful, all knowing, is the only one with the capacity to hear us all praying at the same time.

      I believe in God, and I have entrusted my affairs to God directly, and I do what he has asked of me through Qur'an. This is what a Muslim is expected to do, and we do so out of our strong faith in God. However, it is our duty as a people to be responsible for our own actions, do good, and try not to sin. It is also our duty, to repent, and ask forgiveness from God in the event that we have sinned. Just to hit one last point home to you, if God is almighty, all merciful, and all forgiving, then why must I walk in guilt every day? If I ask him for forgiveness, he will forgive me (provided I truly mean it), there's no need for me, or you for that matter, to feel constant guilt.

      Have a nice day FairGarden, since you claim I will not go to Paradise, I guess there's no reason to hope to shake your hand in it.

      June 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  6. Eliteamericans

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuSqsopQEF0&w=640&h=390]

    June 7, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  7. GSA

    @Fairgarden – thank you for your great posts, now I have affirmation that not just some but the majority of Christians are crazy. Do you teach your kids this type of hate and intolerance of others?

    June 6, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Friend

      You stupid secularists completely screwed on educating the Middle East. You have no rights to slander Christians. You should have listened to the Christian leaders.

      June 6, 2011 at 11:10 pm |
  8. FairGarden

    @Jason, I'm a woman. Most Muslims never read the Bible, not even Qu'ran. You don't sound like a real Muslim. You never undestood Christianity, that's for sure. Islam is a nice try to reach the one true God just like Judaism but both are futile as no religion has the Divine Savior thus salvation, except for Christianity. At the end, if you don't trust in Jesus, you are betting on your own goodness but God never sees you as innocent for you are definitely not. The Word of God declares you are a hopeless sinner and you are proveing it every second by your own conducts. Only the faith in Jesus alone can cleanse you and save you.

    June 5, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • Jason

      Alright, ma'am. Sorry for assuming you were male the first time around. As for your post...

      What does a real Muslim sound like? Just because I type eloquently, and respectfully, it means I sound like a fake Muslim? And what IS a real Muslim to begin with? Is it someone born in and to an Arabic Family? No, it's anyone who has accepted Islam, and all newborn babies.

      Now, your fundamental argument, is that most Muslims don't read Qur'an... Well, we have to memorize a lot of it, for prayer time. So we have to read it. Is that to say that all Muslims read Qur'an? no... I am sure there are many who don't, however, I am even more sure, that there are MANY MANY MANY more Christians, or people claiming to be Christian, who have not read the bible. Also, I can tell you, out of the Muslims I can verify with right now while typing this post, 50% of them have read The King James Bible/New Testament, 33% have read The Old Testament, and 100% have read or are reading Qur'an. Not to mention, that MOST devout Muslims, try to start and finish Qur'an during the holy month of Ramadan. Do you do that during Lent, or At Christmas time? How many of your friends can claim they do the same? I am willing to bet, it's not 100%, and it's probably closer to 33%.

      Also, when a baby is born, WHY is it born into sin? The child has done nothing, if it died, without ever uttering the words "I accept Jesus Christ as my lord and Saviour" by your logic, that child would go to hell. However, God, is all merciful and all forgiving, and in Islam, we believe everyone is born pure. Therefore, our children, incapable of speech, and incapable of comprehending sin, go straight to Paradise.

      Fundamentally our religions are different. However, they're both teaching the same general principles in different manners. By general principles, I mean, treat everyone with kindness, and respect, believe in God, and Heaven awaits us in our afterlife.

      So again, walk strong in your faith, tread lightly on others, and I hope to one day shake your hand in Paradise.

      June 7, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  9. Opie

    "The manager, Joseph Nahhas, testified that Stockham referred to himself as a “mujahedeen,” an Arabic word for Muslim fighter."

    Mujahid is the singular, mujahideen is plural. One cannot be "a" mujahideen.

    Anyway, isn't it obvious that this guy is claiming Islamic conversion to avoid charges? What a ludicrous defense.

    June 5, 2011 at 5:08 am |
  10. James Black

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSvqMBj-ig&w=640&h=390]

    June 4, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  11. Jason

    @FairGarden, sir, I think you need to learn about Islam. The Bible is regarded as a holy tome in Islam, well, at least certain books of it, and many Muslims have read and do read the bible. When was the last time you read Qur'an? I am willing to bet never. I am a Muslim Convert, prior to converting I was agnostic, prior to that Baptist, and prior to that Roman Catholic (Baptized as such). I've studied Religion most of my life, everything from Abrahamic religions, to Polytheism, and I can tell you, that never have I felt closer to God than now. Religion is what you make of it, it's how it affects you and your lifestyle and those around you. If Christianity makes you a better person, so be it, but Islam has made me a better person, and Christianity only made me worse.

    Acceptance and understanding trumps zealotry every day of the week. Walk strong in your faith and tread lightly on others, and on the day of judgement I hope to shake your hand in Paradise.

    June 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
  12. FairGarden

    Muslims, God has a grand purpose for this planet – a very unique one. If you only see the outside of the West and try to get Westernaized(freedom, democracy, free market, etc.) by taking up its outer benefits only, in no time you will be just another losers filled with immorality, perverts, sickened kids, greed, meaninglessness, purposelessness, cowardly men, abusive women, confusion, dirty language and filthy manners. Read the Bible and learn the truly most valuable things. Secular Westerners can teach you nothing. They are more ignorant on their own history and its value than you.

    June 4, 2011 at 5:37 am |
  13. FairGarden

    Muslims, you can't overtake the West unless you know what's in the Bible firsthand. The West got corrupted much now but it still has the remaining base of Judeo-Christian tradition as the source of its strength. You can't draw true lasting strength by just mimicking the West's outer shells such as cleverness, technology or the business stuff. The Western civilization has something deep in its core – nothing any other civilization ever had or has, including yours. Don't belittle it. And without reading the Bible, you will never get out of your primitive state and never find why Israel is so invincible. In fact, history or science will never make sense to you without knowing the Bible. Read the Bible in order to find who God is, what humans are, what kind of world structure you are in, who you are, what you should do and how to live.

    June 4, 2011 at 5:20 am |
    • wjs

      Fairgarden, I guarantee Muslims as a whole know and understand far more about the Christian Bible than Christians do the Qur'an. The Qur'an teaches us about your (and our) prophets and their lives.

      June 24, 2011 at 7:13 am |
  14. FairGarden

    The Bible is truth. Truth sets man free and Jesus also strengthens him.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  15. FairGarden

    Muslims should read the Bible.
    People, if you feel depressed, read the Bible and learn the systematic theology from Evangelical Christians. You can't go insane even if you want to; it will stretch you out beyond your imagination. It will also make you understand the best strength of the Western conscience and character and the Jewish wisdom and intelligence.

    June 3, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  16. Muneef

    No not again....is he looking for fame as did Terry Jones treathening to burn the Quran...?if ever he was a mental case then who other than media who has made of him like that against Islam and Muslims....?

    June 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  17. John Richardson

    So a guy with a history of mental illness converts to Islam but still drinks has a defense that says that what he is accused of doesn't make sense? Well, how much of the rest of this guy's life has made sense?

    June 3, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • T-party

      mental illness and religious fanatics go hand in hand....its been proven over and over.....Koresh jim jones,oral Roberts the list goes on and on...

      June 4, 2011 at 6:59 pm |

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.