Defense: Federal agent coerced teen to violence
Sunday, May 8, 2011
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Defense lawyers for a Somali-American teen charged with trying to detonate a bomb at a holiday tree-lighting ceremony say a federal agent tried to coerce him into violence.
Attorneys for Mohamed O. Mohamud said in a filing Friday that emails from an agent known only as “Bill Smith” prove the teen’s innocence and show the federal government is not playing fair with the evidence it is supposed to provide.
“The correspondence between Bill Smith and (Mohamud) demonstrates that Smith was acting as an agent provocateur, attempting to encourage (Mohamud) to engage in violent activity in this country,” the defense team wrote.
Prosecutors had said in a filing April 7 that the emails did not relate to the facts of the case, and acknowledged that the agent was working for the government, but that the contact was brief.
Mohamud, 19, has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempting to ignite a weapon of mass destruction at a Nov. 26 Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore. The FBI has said that its agents were acting as his coconspirators as part of a sting and that there was never a real explosive device.
His defense attorneys, Stephen Sady and Steven Wax, appeared to be launching an entrapment defense in their arguments that the agent’s emails show the government shouldn’t have control over what evidence it provides to the defense. They said in the filing that the government had given them “voluminous” amounts of emails with “hundreds of lines of distracting code.”
Sady and Wax argue that the agent initiated discussions about terrorism in the U.S., and that Mohamud didn’t take any action based on that conversation. That, they say, shows that Mohamud wasn’t predisposed to violence.
Mohamud’s predisposition — his will to commit violence — is key to an entrapment defense. If the defense can show that government agents put the idea of a tree-lighting bombing into Mohamud’s head, it enhances their prospects for a successful defense.
The attorneys said they were only able to understand what the agent’s role in the case by backtracking through the emails. “If not for fortunate defense work, this exculpatory fact would have continued to be suppressed,” they wrote.
The emails are another step in the long-running saga centering on what evidence the government must provide to the defense. Mohamud’s defense argues that prosecutors don’t understand what constitutes evidence that could prove their client’s innocence.
Prosecutors said in April that Mohamud had continued to contact the agent even after he had stopped working on behalf of the government. “Defendant, however, on his own continued to contact Smith ... by forwarding Smith e-mails, including one that supported violent jihad,” they said.
They also have said they have provided more evidence than they need to, as a courtesy to the defense team.
Sady and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight declined to comment when contacted Saturday by The Associated Press.
Oral arguments about the discovery motions are scheduled before U.S. District Judge Garr M. King on June 1.
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