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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Possible Entrapment Defense for|Man Accused of Christmas Bomb Plot

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - Attorneys for the 20-year-old man accused of plotting to detonate a truck full of explosives during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony filed a memo suggesting they may argue entrapment as a defense.

The defense team for Mohamed Mohamud filed a discovery request in Federal Court Monday over access to information revealing undercover FBI agents' role in the case.

Mohamud was arrested on Nov. 26 after undercover FBI agents foiled the bomb plot they apparently helped him hatch. Mohamud pleaded not guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Investigators said in their federal affidavit that the Somali-American planned "a spectacular show" and did not care if he killed innocent people. The affidavit also claimed Mohamud told an undercover agent that he "had been thinking of committing some form of violent jihad since the age of fifteen."

Public defenders Stephen Sady, Steven Wax and Ruben Iñiguez appear to be gearing up for an entrapment defense. In a memorandum attached to their motion for discovery filed Monday, Mohamud's lawyers asked the government to produce recordings and transcripts of their initial meetings with the accused terrorist, including information which is blacked out or redacted.

The defense team said the government knew about their client's "vulnerabilities" and noted "the sophisticated efforts used to induce Mr. Mohamud to cooperate with undercover agents."

"The initial discovery demonstrates that, regardless of opinions or activities that raised governmental interest, extensive evidence remains in the government's possession that may be helpful in establishing the lack of predisposition to commit the charged crime," the memorandum states.

Regarding the transcripts of conversations with Mohamud, the defense team noted that "the government agents not only pepper their communications with Arabic phrases, but they also make repeated cultural, religious, and ethnic references" that should be translated.

For instance, agents repeatedly used the word "ijtimeaat," which roughly translates to "council," and the defense requested all information about agents' decision to use that term.

Sady originally raised the issue of potential entrapment during his client's first court appearance.

"This case is very unusual," Sady told the court on Nov. 29. He said the federal complaint against his client basically became "a press release" mere days after his arrest. The charges, Sady claimed, were the result of "quite sophisticated government agents" who were "basically grooming" Mohamud, and his arrest was timed for "maximum impact and maximum publicity."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight responded that Mohamud chose the day and time of the planned attack. Attorney General Eric Holder has since defended the actions of the FBI, and publicly rejected the idea that agents entrapped Mohamud.

In February, Federal Judge Garr King said Holder violated government policy by publicly discussing the case. King advised the Attorney General's office to refrain from further comments, but did not find that the comments violated Mohamud's due process rights.

Mohamud is being held in custody. His trial, which was scheduled for February 2011, has been delayed after Mohamud's lawyers requested a 2012 start date. Judge King set a scheduling and status hearing for May 23.

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