In a flurry of legal motions filed late Monday, attorneys in the murder-for-hire case against Qubilah Shabazz profiled an indecisive woman who talked bluntly about murder, then backed out of an alleged plot just weeks before she was indicted for conspiring to kill Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan.
The release of transcripts from FBI wiretaps and a purported confession from Shabazz--daughter of the legendary Black Muslim leader Malcolm X--provided the first inner details of a case that has flared into renewed controversy over the government's reliance on criminal informants.
Charging "outrageous governmental misconduct," defense lawyer William Kunstler asked U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum to dismiss the charges of conspiracy to commit murder for hire. Kunstler also demanded a separate hearing into the actions of the government's main witness, Michael Fitzpatrick.
A veteran informant who slipped in and out of the federal witness protection program, Fitzpatrick was taped in more than 40 conversations with Shabazz discussing a plot to murder Farrakhan at the Nation of Islam mosque on Chicago's South Side.
"He was the classic seducer," Kunstler said, insisting that Shabazz had talked about a murder attempt only "as a joke" and had tried to persuade Fitzpatrick to call off his ultimately fictitious murder attempt.
And prosecutors acknowledged for the first time Monday that by November, 1994--almost four months after Shabazz and Fitzpatrick made contact--she began distancing herself from the plot.
But responding to the defense motions, U.S. Atty. David L. Lillehaug insisted that the "evidence will show that this was not the result of a dramatic improvement in her conscience. Rather, it was because she had spoken with one of Fitzpatrick's roommates and . . . began to suspect that (he) might be an informant and might be tape-recording their calls."
Sources close to the case claim that FBI officials had learned that Shabazz had approached people other than Fitzpatrick about killing Farrakhan. Her indictment became inevitable, the sources said, because prosecutors feared the possibility that she might find someone else to commit the murder.
In their first taped conversation on July 27, Shabazz told Fitzpatrick that killing Farrakhan was an "obsession."
She told Fitzpatrick she was acting because she feared for the life of her mother, Betty Shabazz, who had stated her belief that Farrakhan was involved in Malcolm X's 1965 assassination. Malcolm X was gunned down by three former Black Muslims as he spoke in a Harlem auditorium; Qubilah Shabazz was among the witnesses.