MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal defender for the New Jersey man linked to a series of minor explosions that rattled the tristate area last year told jurors Friday to focus on the bomb that did not detonate.
“The fact that the bomb was being capable of being used doesn’t mean Mr. Rahimi intended to use it,” attorney Sabrina Shroff said at closing arguments Friday for client Ahmad Khan Rahimi.
A 29-year-old Afghanistan-born U.S. citizen, Rahimi has been in custody since his arrest on Sept. 19, 2016.
Rahimi has pleaded not guilty to charges that he planted five homemade devices, the first of which went off two days earlier, along the route of a charity 5K race in Seaside Park, New Jersey. Hours later, in the Chelsea section of Manhattan at 23rd Street, another pressure-cooker bomb blew up inside of a Dumpster, blowing out nearby windows but causing no serious injuries.
A third, undetonated bomb was found four blocks north at 27th Street.
Jumping off the government’s portrayal of Rahimi as a “a sophisticated bombmaker,” Shroff said there is reasonable doubt that Rahimi did not intend for the 27th Street bomb to go off.
“If he had that intent, for all the time that passed … he would have set off that bomb,” Shroff said. “Nothing stood in his way.”
“If you believe the government, Rahimi had every chance to make that happen,” Shroff continued.
Rahimi sat mostly motionless, with his hands on his lap, during his attorney’s closing.
After the defense rested, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew DeFilippis launched into his rebuttal immediately.
Quoting from the terrorist-propaganda magazine Inspire, DeFilippis called Shroff’s defense argument “a cover story straight out of the al-Qaida playbook.”
Inspire magazine was one of the channels of radical Islamic propaganda found on Rahimi’s laptop. DeFilippis noted that the magazine has instructed readers to maintain a cover story good enough to sway a jury.
“This was not cold feet, this was cold and calculating attack, this was cold blood,” DeFilippis exclaimed.
The prosecutor called the defense’s closing argument “a partial confession” of Rahimi’s bombings and attempt at Jihad.
DeFilippis mentioned several times that the defense’s argument — “he would have if he wanted to” — “doesn’t pass the smell test.”
“The most powerful evidence of his intent is what you saw at 23rd Street,” DeFillipis told the jury, “his goal was to kill as many New Yorkers as he could.”
An FBI bomb expert testified during trial that the undetonated 27th Street bomb was kept in a suitcase, connected to a cellphone detonator whose alarm clock was set to vibrate at 9 p.m.
Video surveillance entered as evidence during trial showed that a man who passed by the luggage on 27th Street at 8:51 p.m. considered making off with it.
After picking up and examined the luggage, however, he put it back down.
Rahimi’s DNA and fingerprints were found all over the exterior and inside of the bomb and cellphone.
Jury deliberation is expected to begin Friday afternoon.