U.S. prosecutors won't use accused NY bomber's statement at trial

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2016 2:38 PM

By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors said Monday they would not use statements that accused New York bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi gave to police at trial, saying they would forgo an attempt to admit such contentious evidence in order to speed up the proceedings.

Rahimi, 28, is charged with planting homemade bombs in New York and New Jersey in September, including one that injured dozens of people in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea.

Investigators have portrayed the Afghan-born Rahimi as a jihadist who begged for martyrdom and praised Osama bin Laden.

He was arrested two days after the Chelsea blast in Linden, New Jersey, following a shootout with police that wounded two officers and left him hospitalized for a month with multiple gunshot wounds. Rahimi also faces separate state and federal charges in New Jersey.

No other arrests were made in connection with the bombings.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Lewin, leading the prosecution team in Manhattan federal court, said police took statements from Rahimi over several days without advising him of his constitutional right to remain silent.

Lewin referred to a public safety exemption that grants investigators such leeway while still preserving the opportunity to use the evidence at trial. Investigators may have been seeking to determine if there were other suspects at large or bombs unaccounted for before advising Rahimi of his rights.

"We will not seek to use in our case that statement," Lewin said in court, citing an interest in a speedy trial.

Prosecutors may have deemed the statement unnecessary considering other evidence that they say implicates Rahimi, including video placing him at the scene of the bombing and a diary recovered from him at the time of his arrest.

Defense lawyers likely would have sought to block the use of Rahimi's statements, possibly delaying the scheduled March 27 start of the evidence phase of the trial.

"Even if they wanted to squeeze it through the law, they couldn't. It's inadmissible," Assistant Federal Defender Sabrina Shroff told reporters.

The defense team is still seeking more time to review the voluminous evidence provided by prosecutors. Peggy Cross-Goldenberg, another of Rahimi's federal public defenders, said they had received 10 terabytes of data on files that were taking hours to download.

U.S. District Judge Richard Berman set a hearing for Jan. 4 to get an update on the defense progress on accessing the files.

"We're going to have a speedy trial," Berman said, pledging that any delay he might grant would be brief.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Alan Crosby)