An Uzbek man who pleaded guilty to plotting to assassinate President Barack Obama was never admitted to Columbia University's medical school, the university said Saturday, contrary to defense claims before he was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison.
The disparity could be a misunderstanding linked to language problems, a defense attorney said, but it also could raise questions about Ulugbek Kodirov's credibility and the information he is giving to investigators of terror threats against the United States.
The Columbia University claim was important to the defense narrative because it explained how Kodirov moved to the United States and wound up in Alabama, where he tried to purchase a weapon to kill Obama last year before his arrest.
Defense lawyer Lance Bell told the judge Kodirov was accepted to Columbia's medical college, received a U.S. student visa and moved to New York but then couldn't enroll at the prestigious Ivy League school because his English was too poor. Unable to find work in New York, Kodirov moved to Alabama and turned against the United States after contacting Islamic extremists on the Internet out of loneliness, Bell said.
But Columbia spokesman Doug Levy said Kodirov never was accepted to the university's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
"From the immediately available records we have no knowledge of this individual and no record of him being an accepted student," Levy said.