Questions remain, why judge was removed from terror case - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Questions remain, why judge was removed from terror case

Khalid Aldawsari, image from Lubbock County S.O. Khalid Aldawsari, image from Lubbock County S.O.
Aldawsari is led into court for an initial appearance in February 2011, kcbd file image Aldawsari is led into court for an initial appearance in February 2011, kcbd file image
Honorable Sam Cummings, U.S. District Court Judge Honorable Sam Cummings, U.S. District Court Judge
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

A different U.S. District Court Judge was chosen Thursday to oversee the criminal trial of Khalid Aldawsari, 20.

Aldawsari, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was arrested in Lubbock last year on a charge of Attempted Use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction.  He was in Lubbock as a college student at the time. Court records say his desire for "jihad" had targets nationwide including the home for former President George W. Bush.

Chief Judge Sidney Fitzwater ordered that Donald E. Walter, Senior United States District Judge for the Western District of Louisiana, would take over the case.  

The U.S. District Judge in Lubbock, Sam Cummings, removed himself from the case without explanation on Wednesday.   Six court records in the days leading up to Cummings' recusal are hidden from public view. 

Lubbock is in the Northern District of Texas and so it took a separate order by the Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Edith H. Jones, to allow Walter to oversee a case outside his Western Louisiana district.  Court records say Jones' order was given on December 6th, and was to be effective from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012.

Fitzwater's order on Thursday says, "I have determined that it is in the public interest, and will assist the judges of this court in managing their dockets, to assign this case to a district judge from outside the district." 

Does any of this mean that the removal of Cummings from the case was started on December 6th?  Court records do not say, and while he was still on the case Cummings issued a gag order that forbids federal officials from communicating with members of the news media. 

An April 30 trial date might be in jeopardy.  Fitzwater's order also says, "The parties are directed to await his [Walter's] further orders and directives regarding the scheduling of pretrial matters and the trial."

Copyright 2012 KCBD. All rights reserved.

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