Tampa man accused of plotting terrorist attack found incompetent to stand trial

A Tampa man accused of plotting an attack in the Bay Area and currently facing terrorism charges has been found incompetent to stand trial, for now.

On Tuesday, from the federal court in Tampa, it was announced that Muhammed Momtaz al-Azhari's case is on hold until his competency can be restored. 

Legal analyst Anthony Rickman reviewed Tuesday's proceedings and said al-Azhari's defense attorney's have no choice but to wait. 

"Everything’s on hold until his competency is restored," explained Rickman. "At the time, when he had these mental defects, he couldn't help with his defense. He couldn't understand the charges against him."

It could mean the legal strategy for al-Azhari may change. Rickman believes his legal team may take this mental health issue even further.

Rickman said the defense could argue the following: "Yes, he did it, but when he did these offenses, engaged in this communication, gathered the weapons, when he did these things, he was legally insane."

Rickman said the strategy has risks and, in the past, has failed with juries. 

Courtesy: Department of Justice

Back in 2020, the FBI announced the arrest of the 23-year-old, who they say was loyal to ISIS. Al-Azhari was charged with providing material support to ISIS after he stockpiled weapons and expressed allegiance to the "caliphate," authorities said. They said he worshipped the Orlando nightclub shooter.

MORE: Attorney for Tampa man accused of plotting terrorist attack says FBI used illegal aerial surveillance

Arresting documents said al-Azhari told an informant he wanted "to die in a shootout with disbelievers. I want to take revenge." 

"I don't want to take four or five. I want to take at least 50, like brother Omar Mateen in Orlando did," al-Azhari allegedly said.

"He took explicit steps in furtherance of his plan to kill Americans, not just Americans, citizens of our Tampa Bay community," said defense attorney Anthony Rickman, who reviewed the court documents but is not involved in the case. "If he wasn't stopped by law enforcement, we may be talking about something much more serious here today."

RELATED: Sister of alleged terrorist sought revenge, tried to stab Temple Terrace officer, prosecutors say

Prosecutors said they will continue working on his case. Meanwhile, al-Azhari's defense attorney told the judge Tuesday they will continue to go through all evidence against him.

Tuesday's decision could delay trial by a year or longer.