The government urged a judge on Wednesday to deny a businessman's request to toss out statements he made to the FBI about last year's Times Square car bombing probe, saying he didn't need to be read his rights before blurting out that he provided $7,000 to the unsuccessful bomber but wasn't guilty "for the bomb."
Prosecutors were responding to papers filed two weeks ago in U.S. District Court in Manhattan by lawyers for Mohammad Younis, a Pakistani-born man who was visited at his Long Island home just days after the May 1 bombing attempt.
The car bomb attack by Faisal Shahzad failed because the bomb produced smoke but no explosion. Shahzad, of Bridgeport, Conn., was arrested days later as he tried to flee the country. He is serving a life prison sentence after pleading guilty to plotting to set off the propane-and-gasoline bomb in an SUV parked outside a string of restaurants and a Broadway theater showing "The Lion King."
The government said Younis was visited by FBI agents on May 13, when he admitted that he gave an individual $7,000 in $100 bills at a restaurant near a Ronkonkoma train station on April 10. Prosecutors wrote that he was shown a photograph of Shahzad, a Pakistani immigrant, and he said the man he gave the money to resembled him, except for a beard.
According to the court papers, Younis, 44, "became visibly upset when he was told that the individual in the picture was `the Times Square bomber' and denied knowing Shahzad or having contact with him, aside from the April 10 meeting."
Prosecutors added: "Younis told agents, in substance, `I paid the money, but I am not guilty for the bomb.'"
Younis was interviewed voluntarily two more times before he was arrested and charged in an indictment on Sept. 15 with conspiring with others to conduct an unlicensed money transmitting business affecting interstate commerce and with conducting, aiding and abetting an unlicensed money transmitting business.
Lawyers for Younis asked a judge to toss out their client's statements and evidence seized from his home on the grounds that he was not notified of his rights and the interviews and searches violated his constitutional rights.
The government called the suppression request "meritless," arguing that he did not need to be read his rights because the circumstances in which his statements were taken were custodial in nature.
In a written statement to the court earlier this month, Younis described his ordeal, saying he was "overwhelmed" after government agents arrived at his Centereach home at about 6 a.m., waking him while he was at home with his wife and young daughter. He said he was not advised of his rights as he was interviewed by members of a terrorism task force while they did their work from 6 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. He said he also met them at the FBI's Melville office from 12:45 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. that day and twice more within a week.
"I have the belief," he said, "that my statements to the government agents were involuntarily elicited."