Port Authority Bomber Convicted on All Counts

MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal jury deliberated for six hours before handing a guilty verdict Tuesday to the Bangladeshi immigrant who set off a homemade bomb last year during rush hour one morning in Midtown Manhattan.

This undated photo provided by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission shows Akayed Ullah, the suspect in the explosion near New York’s Times Square.

Focused on the circumstances of an explosion where the only person seriously injured was bomber, jurors rejected the defense’s argument that Akayed Ullah had been merely suicidal and not trying to help the global terrorist organization known as the Islamic State group.

Ullah, 28, began yelling in court after the jury convicted him on all six counts, contesting that he supported ISIS and trying to clarify what he had posted on Facebook about President Donald Trump just before detonating his bomb in a corridor between the Port Authority bus terminal and the New York subway system.

U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan stifled the outburst quickly, warning Ullah that it might compromise his ability to appeal certain issues down the line. Sullivan also noted that Ullah would do better to save his remarks for his sentencing hearing.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman commended the verdict Tuesday afternoon.

“Today, Ullah stands convicted, he faces a potential life sentence, and his purpose failed. New York City remains a shining symbol of freedom and hope,” Berman said in a statement. “Ullah’s conviction by a unanimous jury of New Yorkers falls on an Election Day, which fittingly underscores the core principles of American democracy and spirit: Americans engage in the political process through votes, not violence”

Attorneys for Ullah did not call any witnesses during the five-day trial, during which prosecutors worked to show that Ullah had been radicalized by ISIS as far back as 2014.

The jury, made up of eight women and four men, entered its unanimous verdict here just before 2 p.m.

In addition to providing support to a foreign terrorist organization, Ullah was charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use, destruction of public property by means of fire or explosive, terrorist attack against mass transportation systems and use of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence.

He faces a potential life sentence and a mandatory-minimum consecutive sentence of 30 years in prison.

Before his arrest, Ullah lived in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn and worked as an electrician. At one of his job sites in Manhattan, several blocks away from where the detonation occurred, investigators found a pair channel-lock pliers that Ullah is believed to have used to tighten the end caps on his pipe bomb.

The prosecution peppered its closing argument Monday with repeated references to three ISIS-related slogans that Ullah used online and scrawled on his belongings: “America, Die in Your Rage,” “O Trump you fail to protect your nation,” and “Baqiyah,” an Arabic expression meaning “remaining.” ISIS uses the latter phrase in its slogan “baqiya wa tatamadad,” which translates to “remaining and expanding.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney George Turner noted at trial that the slogan “Die in Your Rage” appeared in an ISIS propaganda movie titled “Flames of War II.”

The film, which was released 12 days before Ullah’s pipe bomb explosion, instructed ISIS supporters to carry out attacks overseas in the United States, Turner added.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shawn Crowley emphasized meanwhile during the government’s rebuttal Monday that the evidence was ironclad. By carrying out the bombing attempt, Ullah “provided a service to ISIS and he provided himself,” she said. “Period. Guilty”

Ullah’s defense attorney Amy Gallichio on the other hand described the tunnel explosion as a suicide attempt by a “mentally unstable man, who unlike the rest of us, could not turn off the noise in his head.”

“He wanted to die, he wanted to take his own life and only his own life,” Gallichio argued.

Gallichio insisted that the minimal injuries and lack of any casualties resulting from the bomb’s smoky detonation were evidence of suicide rather than terrorism.

As an electrician, she said Ullah could have constructed a bigger bomb if he wanted. Instead “he didn’t build a bomb big enough to even kill himself,” Gallichio added.

Gallichio also disputed the government’s charge that Ullah carried a destructive device on mass transit for a crime of violence, because the bomb was purposefully disconnected during the subway ride rendering it not an operational or destructive device. “He did it where he planned,” she said.

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