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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Judge Won’t Muzzle FBI|Before Terror Plot Trial

(CN) - FBI agents can compare notes about their investigation of a Somali-American teen's plot to bomb a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony outside a Portland, Ore. courthouse, a federal judge ruled.

The FBI monitored Mohamed Mohamud for months and launched an undercover sting operation to foil the young man's plans to detonate a bomb at the ceremony in Pioneer Courthouse Square in November 2010.

A federal grand jury in Portland charged Mohamud with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Mohamud says his first meeting with an undercover agent on July 30, 2010, is critical to his defense. Since the government's recording equipment failed, however, he wants to review the agents' reports of the meeting.

First, however, Mohamud asked for an order to prohibit government witnesses from communicating with each other about the meeting or reviewing their documents.

So far, Mohamud claims the government has already destroyed one of the witness's handwritten notes, and another witness has not yet filed his drafted report.

U.S. District Court Judge Garr King denied the request on Thursday.

"Although defendant argues that the government violated the Jencks Act when one agent destroyed his notes after completing a typewritten report, the Jencks Act only applies once a witness has testified at trial," King wrote. "I will address any Jencks Act violations when and if they arise."

"Even assuming that I have the authority to grant defendant's request, I would only consider doing so in a very unusual situation," the judge added. "I do not see circumstances here which require me to interfere with the government's ability to prosecute this case. I take the government at its word when counsel assures me that the agents are preserving all remaining notes about the meeting, and witnesses will not discuss with each other the substance of their testimony before trial."

King agreed with the government that "vigorous cross-examination" is the sole tool that Mohamud has at his disposal to determine if any of the witnessed changed their stories.

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