Attorneys paint starkly different pictures of Portland bombing plot

Attorneys paint starkly different pictures of Portland bombing plot

PORTLAND, Ore. - When FBI agents posing as jihad extremists first met with Mohamed Mohamud, they wanted to know if he was true to his talk of committing terrorism, an assistant U.S. attorney told jurors on Friday.

The agents questioned the teenager about choosing Portland’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony, pointing out young children would be there.

“The defendant responded, ‘Yeah, I mean, that’s what I’m looking for,’” Assistant U.S. Attorney Pamala Holsinger recounted Friday afternoon during her opening statement in the trial of the Oregon State University student charged with attempting to bomb the annual celebration in 2010.

The 19-year-old wanted to a place where families were together, enjoying the holidays, Holsinger said.

“Little did they know, the defendant had plotted and schemed for months to kill each and every one of them,” she said.

Chief Deputy Federal Public Defender Stephen Sady, however, in his opening statement, said there was a different guilty party in the case: the government.

“The FBI just went too far,” Sady said. “They created a crime that just wouldn’t have happened.”

Holsinger and Sady presented starkly different accounts of the case in their opening statements in U.S. District Court on Friday afternoon. The statements were heard after a jury of 12 and four alternates were seated in the morning in U.S. Judge Garr King’s courtroom.

Attorneys will begin calling witnesses on Monday morning. The trial is expected to last about four weeks.

As Sady told jurors, the defense doesn’t dispute Mohamud wrote extremists blogs on the Internet prior to the Nov. 26, 2010, event and that he made threats of being violent, as recorded by undercover agents.

What Sady said the defense aimed to prove is that Mohamud did not show signs of violence prior to being contacted by FBI agents. To convict Mohamud, the government must prove he was predisposed to committing terrorism. The defense plans to argue Mohamud was a victim of entrapment.

Mohamud was first contacted over the Internet in November 2009 by an undercover agent, and the public defender said at that point Mohamud was a “manipulable and conflicted teenager.”

“He was not a perfect human being,” Sady said. “But he was not the kind of person who sat around thinking about blowing up his hometown.”

Sady said Mohamud was contacted again in summer 2010 by the next two FBI agents, who ultimately posed as co-conspirators in the tree lighting plot. The defense attorney contends they used psychological tactics, such as isolation and flattery, to induce Mohamud into devising the bomb plot.

“Did the government create the crime?,” Sady said. “Did the FBI foil its own plot?”

Holsinger, on the other hand, said the FBI agents, in their correspondence with him, gave Mohamud multiples times to back out. She said the agents repeatedly questioned whether Mohamud was sure he wanted to carry out the plan.

“He was undeterred,” she said.

Mohamud showed signs that he was capable of terrorism, Holsinger said: He was in contact with an Al-Qaida recruiter and had earlier made plans to travel to Yemen to receive jihad training.

When he began planning the tree lighting plot, Mohamud was the one who coordinated the logistics of where to park the van that held the bomb and also rented a storage unit for equipment, Holsinger said.

“He identified the date, the time, the location and the plan,” she said. “He wanted the people here to get the message that if you kill Muslims in Afghanistan, you weren’t safe. He just needed to right people to help him.”