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Member of Atlanta family accused in terror plot deemed incompetent

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)

A federal judge recently ruled that a second member of an Atlanta family accused of moving to the New Mexico desert to plot terror is incompetent to stand trial.

Lucas Morton, 42, was one of five adults and a dozen children who were found on a makeshift compound in May 2018. The adults face charges of conspiring to kill FBI agents and U.S. military members, as well as kidnapping a Clayton County boy, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj. The remains of the child, who was 3 when he died, were found on the property on Aug. 6, 2018, which would’ve been his fourth birthday.

Morton, a brother-in-law of the Abdul-Ghani’s father, was found by a doctor to be suffering from a “disorder that significantly impairs” his ability to understand the court proceedings, court records say. U.S. district court judge Judge William P. Johnson ordered on Aug. 5 that Morton, who is held without bond, receive treatment to see if his mental health issues can improve enough for trial.

Previously, the judge ruled that co-defendant Jany Leveille was also incompetent for trial.

The family, who had lived in the city of Atlanta and DeKalb County, went into the desert around December 2017. Before they left, at least one friend had heard Abdul-Ghani’s dad, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, say he needed to rid the boy of a “curse,” the friend told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Due to trouble getting oxygen during birth, Abdul-Ghani had many medical problems and experienced seizures and cognitive and developmental delays. Authorities have said they believe the child may have died because, rather than giving him seizure medicine, his father performed rituals to rid him of evil spirits.

Federal officials charged the group with kidnapping because Abdul-Ghani’s mother didn’t give permission for him to be taken on the trip to northern New Mexico; she thought Wahhaj was just taking the boy to a park in Clayton County. Wahhaj is the only defendant who doesn’t face kidnapping charges, because federal law generally holds that a parent can’t be charged with kidnapping their child.

The 11 living children who were found at the site were taken into custody by New Mexico child protective workers.

The defendants, all held without bond, have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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© 2020 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution