Terror suspects ask to postpone trials after Orlando

Story highlights

  • Two Florida men accused of being ISIS sympathizers have filed motions to postpone their trials
  • The men say the terrorist attack in Orlando would adversely affect their chance of having a fair hearing

(CNN)Two Florida men facing separate trials for terrorism charges have filed motions to postpone their proceedings in light of the terrorist attack in Orlando.

The two men say the attack would adversely affect their chance at a fair hearing given that they are accused of being ISIS sympathizers, according to motions filed in federal court this week.
    Attorneys for Harlem Suarez, who allegedly agreed to set off a bomb at a public beach last July, said that "a continuance is in the interests of justice until such time as the heated reporting on the Orlando incident has subsided outweighs the public's and the parties' right to a speedy trial," according to court documents.
    A motion filed on behalf of James Medina, who is alleged to have plotted to detonate a bomb at a synagogue in Miami, says that "in the aftermath of the recent incident in Orlando, impaneling a fair and impartial jury to consider purported terrorist activity will be impossible in the immediate future."
    CNN has reached out to attorneys for both defendants for comment.
    According to court documents, Medina and a confidential human source for the FBI discussed an attack on a synagogue in April. The source suggested they should leave a clue as to who carried out the planned attack and indicated that "ISIS" and "Shabaab" were two options. Medina allegedly responded by saying, "Yeah, we can print up something and make it look like it's ISIS here in America."
    The FBI began looking into Suarez after the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office alerted them to a Facebook account operated by Suarez under a different name where he was allegedly attempting to recruit another person to join ISIS. Authorities say Suarez eventually agreed to detonate a bomb that was to be buried in the sand of a populated Key West beach. The FBI also claims that Suarez made a recruitment video for ISIS, which defense attorneys for Suarez believe will contribute to "spill over prejudice from the highly-publicized event in Orlando."
    Hours after the Orlando attack, Suarez also filed a motion to strike an expert witness called to testify on behalf of the government intended to help the jury "in their general understanding of the Islamic State," according to court documents. Attorneys for Suarez said that "clearly, the very mention of terrorism and the Islamic State invokes fear and worry in hearts and minds of every American citizen" and that it will be difficult for him to get a fair trial "in the present climate where the media's constant reporting and commentary on terrorism and terrorist attacks is omnipresent."
    Suarez's trial was set to begin on July 11, and while prosecutors have agreed not to oppose a continuance, a magistrate judge will have to rule on the matter. Medina's motion for continuance was granted and his trial will begin on January 9, 2017.