Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

Man charged in Tampa terrorism case fires attorneys

TAMPA — A Pinellas Park man accused of plotting terror attacks in Tampa was allowed to fire his two criminal defense attorneys after a brief hearing on Friday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony E. Porcelli warned defendant Sami Osmakac that his case was on the August trial calendar and would not necessarily be postponed because of new attorneys.

Osmakac told Porcelli his family is attempting to raise money to hire a new lawyer, including the possibility of selling a house in Kosovo. Osmakac is a naturalized U.S. citizen who is a native of what is now Kosovo.

He said his family has spoken to two local attorneys, Ralph Fernandez and Todd Foster. But neither has yet been retained, court records show.

Attorneys Charles Vaughn and Paul Militello, who both have offices in Inverness, were allowed to withdraw from the case. The pair said Osmakac had lost faith in them and no longer spoke with them. Vaughn also said in a motion that the defendant's family has threatened him.

A different judge had earlier refused Osmakac's request to fire them, saying he hadn't shown a good enough reason.

Vaughn said he had spoken to Osmakac, who is being held without bail at the Pinellas County Jail, four or five times and discussions broke down after the attorney mentioned the possibility of a plea deal. He said Osmakac became angry and demanded to go to trial.

"He's not qualified for this case," Osmakac told Porcelli.

Osmakac also recounted a complicated story about how his family had paid a German attorney up to $12,000 in euros to work with Vaughn. But Osmakac said the German attorney misrepresented himself and later told him that he could not take the case.

"He was making lies and excuses," Osmakac told the judge.

Vaughn said he didn't know the German attorney and has not worked with him.

Osmakac is charged with trying to use weapons of mass destruction and possessing an unregistered machine gun. He is accused of plotting to bomb targets that included a Sheriff's Office operations center in Tampa. He faces life in prison if convicted.

William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.

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