Tracing Padilla's Trail

Jose Padilla traveled a long road from Brooklyn to being indicted by a federal grand jury, accused by the U.S. government of conspiring to "murder, maim and kidnap" people overseas.

Interviews with friends, family, associates and law enforcement paint a picture of a lost young man who eventually found his way onto a path of radical fundamentalism and, authorities allege, conspiracy with al Qaeda. Yet many who knew him are struggling to square their recollections of Jose Padilla, also known as Abdullah al Muhajir, with the image presented by federal officials of a man preparing an attack of mass destruction.

"If you had known him, you would have never thought of him as a violent person," said Raed Mousa Awad, an imam at a mosque that Padilla attended in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after converting to Islam. "He was a polite, shy, serious gentleman, according to my observations."

Troubled Youth

Born in Brooklyn, Padilla, now 31, got in trouble with the law early. As a teen in Chicago in 1983, he pleaded guilty to simple robbery and served probation. Two years later, he was convicted of aggravated battery, armed robbery and attempted armed robbery and involved in a murder. He was in prison until 1988 when he was 18.

Padilla moved to South Florida and again ran afoul of the law. He pleaded guilty to firing a gun at another motorist in 1991 during a traffic dispute in Sunrise, Fla. While in jail in January 1992, Padilla shoved a guard twice and told him, "if you push me, you don't know what I can do to you." Padilla pleaded guilty to battery of a jail officer and resisting without violence.

He was released from jail in August 1992. Since then, his only known run-ins with the law consisted mainly of traffic violations such as driving without a license, driving with a suspended license, and speeding.

Conversion to Islam

In 1992, Padilla got a job with a Taco Bell in Davie, Fla., doing food preparation. He worked there with his then-girlfriend, and later, wife, Cherie Stultz, a Jamaica native.

His boss, Mohammed Javed Qureshi, described him as a good employee. "He came in, he did his work."

Padilla knew that Qureshi was Muslim and asked his boss about converting to Islam, but Qureshi said he directed him elsewhere, since he knew he couldn't talk about religion at work.

Later, Qureshi learned that Padilla had converted to Islam. "He told me he was a Muslim and had changed his name to Ibrahim and wanted to be called Ibrahim at work," recalled Qureshi. "I told him I would continue to call him Jose Padilla as he had not officially changed his name."

Stultz had also converted and called herself Marwah. Qureshi said he did not know where or who converted the two.

Sometime in 1993, Padilla told Qureshi that he was leaving the Taco Bell to find work in construction.

Qureshi says that all the while he knew him, Padilla expressed no anti-American or anti-U.S. government sentiments.

Life as a Muslim

Padilla frequented several mosques and religious schools in Broward County. He appeared to fit in well at the Masjid al-Iman mosque, according to one observer.

The imam during that time was a man named Raed Mousa Awad. He said he met Padilla in 1995 and that Padilla attended services daily, sometimes once or twice a day. "He was very active in the social activities of the mosque and very well-known in the Muslim community," Awad told ABC News.

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