Enrique Marquez due in court: Did a crisis of conscience prompt confession?

Enrique Marquez willingly confessed to involvement in supplying the weapons the San Bernadino shooters used in the Dec. 2 terrorist attack.

Bill Robles/Reuters
Enrique Marquez is shown in this courtroom sketch as he appears with legal representatives during a hearing in federal court in Riverside, California, Dec. 17. Mr. Marquez, a former neighbor is accused of supplying assault rifles to the couple who massacred 14 people in San Bernardino.

It wasn’t a tough interrogation by any means. The suspect called 911 hours after news broke that his neighbors killed 14 people during a shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., Dec. 2, saying he needed to confess his involvement.

Federal investigators questioned Enrique Marquez about the plots he developed with his neighbor, Syed Farook, over 11 days, and each day, Mr. Marquez waived both his right to remain silent and to access a lawyer.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations is emphasizing the willing compliance with the investigation in charges against a man who provided weapons for and plotted but never carried out a terrorist attack in his second court hearing scheduled Monday, to show how he was driven by guilt to confess his involvement in crimes he would not have committed.

Marquez faces charges relating to purchasing the guns Mr. Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, used in the San Bernardino terrorist attack and visa fraud for consenting to a sham marriage to a relation of Farook's. If convicted, Marquez could spend up to 35 years in prison.

Marquez looked the part of a man unhinged by guilt during his first court appearance on Thursday. He appeared disheveled, with an unshaven face and his pants pockets turned out. Prosecutors have asked the judge to hold him on bond pending his trial to protect the community and out of concern he might try to run away.

The charge prosecutors are using for Marquez is an unusual one, an old charge that shows he provided support for a specific, violent plot without saying he had any affiliation with a terrorist organization.

"Obviously, there are many more instances of people trying to join up with a group rather than being linked to actual violent acts," Bobby Chesney, a University of Texas law professor, told the Associated Press.

All this should make an easy case against Marquez, who has shown signs of guilt over his small part in what FBI are calling the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.

"The material support provision is sort of the prosecutor's weapon of choice in going after individuals in plots like this," William Banks, interim dean the Syracuse University law school told the AP. "It's a prosecutor's dream."

The FBI has carefully stated in the criminal complaint against Marquez that he was not actually involved in the San Bernadino shootings in any way and that he spoke willingly with agents throughout the investigation, said Attorney E. Martin Estrada, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles.

This suggests the FBI believes Marquez' story of guilt-ridden confession shows he would not have carried out any any terrorist attack and wants to wrap up the case simply.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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