Terror Suspect Loses Bid to Suppress Evidence | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Terror Suspect Loses Bid to Suppress Evidence

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - A federal judge has refused to suppress evidence against a man accused of plotting to blow up a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.

As a trial looms for Mohamed Mohamud, 21, his public defenders have been fighting to access evidence that the government had allegedly been collecting in the months before his arrest.

Mohamud, from Corvallis, was apprehended in November 2010 after allegedly detonating a truck full of fake explosives set up by undercover agents in an apparent sting operation.

The government charged Mohamud with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He pleaded not guilty.

Mohamud had been under police surveillance in the months leading up to his arrest, and unwittingly worked with an undercover informant.

Oregon State Police had investigated Mohamud for allegations of date rape in 2009, and FBI agents joined the investigation, searching his computer and cellphone.

Mohamud claimed he did not consent to the search, and his attorneys sought to suppress all the evidence collected by the government.

Finding that the Oregon State Police investigation had not tainted the FBI-collected evidence, U.S. District Judge Garr King denied the motion to suppress Monday.

The government said it would not offer any of the disputed evidence from Mohamud's interview with Oregon State Police at trial, so King declined to rule on whether the government violated his constitutional rights.

Mohamud has also challenged his interview with FBI agents at the Portland airport, which occurred shortly after he found out he had been placed on a no-fly list.

He made the discovery at Portland airport where he was planning to embark on a job for the summer of 2010 working on a fishing boat in Alaska.

After the airline turned Mohamud away from his flight, FBI agents Brad Petrie and Chris Henderson approached the teen and his parents for an interview.

Mohamud's father, software engineer Osman Barre, worried that a call he had made earlier to the FBI resulted in the no-fly-list designation for Mohamud.

Barre had called the FBI to report his son's plans to travel to Yemen, leading to an August 2009 interview with agents.

Mohamud's attorneys argued that the questioning was not voluntary, and evidence from it should be suppressed.

"Mohamud's father told the FBI of his fear of radical recruiters overseas, his fear for his son's safety, and his fear his son would be brainwashed if he went overseas," Judge King summarized. "[He] had read about Somali youth being recruited for radical activity."

The FBI investigated Mohamud after speaking with Barre, and found that the teen had written for a radical Islamist publication called Jihad Recollections, and had communicated with known extremists and discussed travel plans.

The government claims it had begun investigating Mohamud before the date rape investigation, so the evidence obtained from that evidence was not tainted.

Judge King agreed.

"Through the [Oregon State Police] investigation, the FBI got three types of evidence. First, the federal agents observed Mohamud's interview and polygraph," the decision states. "Specifically, they learned he planned to stay in the United States after finishing school, that he believed Somalia was a dangerous place, that he used marijuana and alcohol, and that he was concerned his parents would find out about the rape investigation."

"There is no evidence that any of this information significantly directed the national security investigation or, with one exception, that this information was implicated at all," he added.

"The exception is that when the FBI interviewed Mohamud at the airport, they asked him in front of his parents if he had ever had negative police contact. Obviously, the FBI agents knew of Mohamud's police contact and his concern that his parents would learn of it. That fear would be common in young college students, however. More importantly, there is no evidence the FBI used that fear in fashioning the undercover contacts with Mohamud."

Finding no close connection between the evidence the FBI obtained from the Oregon State Police and the evidence later discovered during a national security investigation, the judge concluded that there was no taint on the evidence.

Statements Mohamud made to FBI agents in the airport cannot be suppressed because they were made voluntarily, he added.

"In balancing [the] facts, I find the most telling to be that the interview was for a relatively short period of time, was not mandatory, and Mohamud never left the company of his parents," the decision states. "I am not persuaded by the argument that the airline's refusal to board Mohamud traumatized him to the extent his will was overborne by a 30 to 40 minute non-mandatory interview in which his parents did most of the talking."

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