MANHATTAN (CN) – Vying to convict the man accused of detonating a series of bombs across New York and Jersey last year, federal prosecutors argued in closing statements Thursday that the explosions may have been minor but the intent was deadly.
Ahmad Khan Rahimi “intended to kill and he intended to cause serious bodily injuries,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Emil Bove emphasized repeatedly in a 2 1/2-hour statement.
Bove focused from the get-go on a notebook that investigators recovered from Rahimi after his arrest. In it, he said, the 29-year-old detailed “his terrorist motivations, his deadly intent, his plan for the bombs.”
Radical Muslim clerics and leaders like Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden inspired Rahimi’s attacks, Bove continued, calling the bombing spree “an attack on the United States, an attack intended to kill Americans, and an act intended to terrorize a city.”
Bove said the notebook showed that the “defendant was proud of bombs, proud of his plans, he wanted credit for his acts of war.”
“More than a claim of responsibility, it is a written confession,” he added.
Bove read aloud for the jury the last passage in Rahimi’s handwritten notebook: ”Inshallah [God willing] the sounds of the bombs will be heard in the streets. Gun shots to your police. Death To Your OPPRESSION.”
Referring to files of literature published by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula found on the defendant’s laptop, Bove called Rahimi “an active consumer of this propaganda.”
Prosecutors say Rahimi showed reverence for another “lone-wolf”-style attacker, Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan who killed 13 people at a Texas military base in 2009.
At one point, Bove gestured at the jury with a cylinder of steel ball bearings, like the kind loaded in last year’s bombs as shrapnel. “He bought this to kill people,” Bove said of Rahimi. “Based on the playbook,” Bove added. “Based on the blueprint of terrorists.”
The government alleges that Rahimi glued additional nuts and bolts on top of the devices to maximize damage.
Bove cited witness testimony that, after the explosions in Chelsea, ball bearings from Rahimi’s devices were found almost two avenues away on Sixth Avenue.
An 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.
Rahimi’s trial began on Oct. 2 before U.S. District Judge Richard Berman.
An FBI expert testimony earlier in the week that the bombs were designed to be ignited by Christmas tree lights triggered by vibrating alarm clock of a cellphone.
The jury also heard testimony from an FBI chemist that the quality of the black powder found at the explosion sites and in the undetonated device suggested that Rahimi used a rock tumbler to process a finer black powder.
Referring to fingerprint and DNA matches found inside the bomb and cellphone, the government says Rahimi did not just plant the bombs but personally designed and built them. Rahimi “understood their destructive potential; he intended to kill people with those devices,” Bove said.
Surveillance video footage shown as evidence tracked Rahimi’s interstate travel from New Jersey to New York and back, capturing the footsteps of what the assistant U.S. attorney called “a man on a terrorist mission.”
Prosecutors claimed that Rahimi carried six other pipe bombs in his backpack the whole day he planted bombs in New Jersey and New York.
Rahimi’s attorneys from Federal Defenders of New York will make closing statements Friday morning followed by a brief government rebuttal and the jury’s deliberation.
Rahimi faces a mandatory life sentence in prison If convicted on all federal counts.
The 29-year-old also faces a separate trial in New Jersey’s Union County Superior Court on attempted-murder charges stemming from the police shootout outside Merdie’s Tavern that resulted in his arrest.