Downers Grove man pleads not guilty to shooting mom outside church
Prosecutors plan to seek an extended term of up to natural life in prison for a Downers Grove man charged with fatally shooting his mother outside a Burr Ridge church.
Michael Zaky Bassaly, 27, pleaded not guilty Friday to five counts of first-degree murder in the Aug. 29 slaying of his 61-year-old mother, Yvonne Zaky Bassaly.
The suspect was arraigned in front of DuPage County Judge Daniel Guerin, who allowed the news media to photograph the proceedings over the objection of Michael Zaky Bassaly's lawyer.
Defense attorney Marc Wolfe argued the coverage could "endanger" relatives of his client who live in Egypt and are persecuted because of their Coptic Christian faith.
"He believes the exposure ... would in and of itself result in a risk of harm," Wolfe said, adding Zaky Bassaly was given political asylum in the U.S. for his own safety.
Prosecutors had no objection to the coverage, and Guerin allowed it after Zaky Bassaly was unable to provide specifics of any known threat.
Assistant State's Attorney Steve Knight said the defendant could face an extended term of up to natural life in prison if convicted in the early morning shooting outside St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Burr Ridge.
To be eligible for a life term, Zaky Bassaly would have to be found guilty of personally discharging the firearm or of carrying out the murder in a "cold, calculated and premeditated" manner. Otherwise, he would face 20 to 60 years.
Prosecutors also turned over to the defense five discs of discovery materials, including police interviews and a 911 call in which they say Zaky Bassaly confessed to shooting his mother once in the head.
Prosecutors said the slaying happened just days after federal authorities began investigating Zaky Bassaly for suspected fraud related to political asylum applications and while his mother was visiting from Florida. Police found the victim in the back seat of a parked Cadillac about 1 a.m. after receiving a frantic 911 call from Zaky Bassaly.
In a letter left at the scene, Zaky Bassaly wrote he wanted to "protect (his mother) from the investigation" and that he also planned to kill himself, prosecutors said. He later claimed the gun "went off."
He returns to court Oct. 18.