Chelsea Bomber Convicted of September 2016 Explosions

Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the man accused of setting off bombs in New Jersey and New York in September 2016, is led into court. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal jury returned a guilty verdict Monday against the New Jersey man who carried out a series of nonfatal bombings in New York and New Jersey last year.

The bombings, which injured more than 30 people, began on Sept. 17, 2016, 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 windows of nearby buildings and projecting shrapnel hundreds of yards away.

The third bomb was found four blocks north at 27th Street. Like the bombs found the next day at a train station in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, however, this device was discovered before detonation.

Using fingerprints found inside the unexploded devices, authorities quickly tied the attacks to Afghanistan-born New Jersey resident Ahmad Khan Rahimi.

Police arrested Rahimi on the morning of Sept. 19 after a shootout outside the Linden, New Jersey, doorway where Rahimi had been sleeping.

The 29-year-old pleaded not guilty to the bombings but a 12-person jury found him guilty of all eight counts, returning a verdict this morning after beginning deliberations Friday. Rahimi’s jury consisted of eight men and four women. He faces life in prison at his sentencing on Jan. 18, 2018.

Outside the courthouse in Manhattan on Oct. 16, 2017, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim announces the guilty verdict delivered by a jury in the case of Ahmad Rahimi, who carried out a series of nonfatal bombings in New York an New Jersey a year earlier. (JOSH RUSSELL, CNS)

Celebrating the verdict Monday, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim noted that Rahimi hoped “to kill and maim as many innocent people as possible.”

“Rahimi’s crimes of hate have been met with swift and resolute justice,” Kim said in a statement. “Just over a year after his attacks, and following a fair and open trial, Rahimi now stands convicted of his crimes of terror by a unanimous jury of New Yorkers. As a result, he now faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Today’s verdict is a victory for New York City, a victory for America in its fight against terror, and a victory for all who believe in the cause of justice.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio likewise applauded Rahimi’s conviction.

“The Chelsea bombing was an attempt to bring our city to its knees,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Instead, our NYPD, FBI and federal prosecutors have brought Ahmad Rahimi to justice. His evil was met with the bravery and resiliency of a beautiful neighborhood and an entire city. New York City will never be intimidated. We remain vigilant, resolute and safe.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew DeFilippis summarized in rebuttal Friday that the evidence against Rahimi included hundreds of pieces of forensic evidence and a comprehensive collection of surveillance videos showing Rahimi “take step after step after step” planting bombs in New Jersey and New York.

Federal prosecutors also repeatedly referenced a notebook and letter found on Rahimi at the time of his arrest.

“More than a claim of responsibility, it is a written confession,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Emil Bove had said in closing arguments Thursday.

By handwriting these personal accounts showed, Rahimi showed that he “was proud of bombs, proud of his plans, he wanted credit for his acts of war,” Bove added.

The government emphasized Rahimi’s mentions of explosive devices and laudatory reverence for former al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden, as well as Anwar al-Awlaki, a former senior leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, and Nidal Hasan, who shot and killed 13 people in Foot Hood, Texas.

Defense attorney Sabrina Shroff focused her closing arguments Friday on three charges Rahimi faced related to that third, undetonated bomb at 27th Street, arguing that the government had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rahimi intended for that bomb to go off.

The first of these charges, Count 2, refers to the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.

Counts 5 and 8 meanwhile concern “the use and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.” Each count by itself carries a mandatory-minimum, consecutive sentence of 30 years in prison, but together the mandatory sentence is life in prison.

Rahimi also still faces state charges in New Jersey related to the police shootout, which also was nonfatal. Rahimi sustained at least seven bullets, while one officer was shot in his bulletproof vest, and another officer was shot in the hand.

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