Chelsea Bomber’s Jailhouse Propaganda Delays Sentencing

Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the man convicted of setting off bombs in New Jersey and New York in September 2016, is led into court. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge delayed the sentencing of convicted Chelsea bomber Ahmad Rahimi on Tuesday after the 29-year-old was caught trying to radicalize a fellow inmate behind bars.

Prosecutors say Rahimi smuggled the propaganda magazine Inspire, published by the group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, to Sajmir Alimehmeti, who is charged with attempting to aid the Islamic State group.

Prosecutors say that Rahimi also shared the extremist literature with a an individual described only as “Defendant-1” in the Eastern District of New York — a federal court in Brooklyn known to have dozens of secret prosecutions.

Both Rahimi and Alimehmeti have been represented by pro bono counsel from the Federal Defenders of New York, including the pugnacious attorney Sabrina Shroff.

Shroff told U.S. District Judge Richard Berman at Tuesday’s hearing that the episode presented an “unwaiveable conflict” that would prevent her from ethically representing Rahimi at sentencing, which had been originally scheduled to occur Jan. 18.

With no objection from prosecutors, Judge Berman appointed attorney Xavier Donaldson to step in as counsel for Rahimi.

“The court believes the only reasonable course of action is to appoint new counsel for Mr. Rahimi and take the Federal Defenders at its word that it cannot ethically represent him,” Berman said.

Berman also bounced Rahimi’s sentencing back until Feb. 13.

Convicted this past October of carrying out a series of nonfatal bombings in New York City and New Jersey, Rahimi has been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center since his arrest on Sept. 19, 2016. Rahimi was apprehended in a shootout with police two days after the first of his bombs detonated along the route a charity 5K race in Seaside Park, New Jersey.

Later that day, another pressure-cooker bomb detonated inside of a Chelsea area Dumpster, breaking building windows in the fashionable neighborhood and sending shrapnel hundreds of yards away.

Authorities found bombs 3 and 4 before they could cause any further damage; one was a few blocks north on 27th Street and was in a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

The relatively minor explosions injured more than 30 people, and they carried an outsized political fallout during a campaign year animated by terrorism fears. Rahimi is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan but then-candidate Donald Trump used the suspect’s case to lash out against immigrants.

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