Somali American to be sentenced in terror case

AP News
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Posted: Sep 30, 2014 7:01 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Somali American is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday for attempting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction four years ago in Portland's downtown square.

Mohamed Mohamud, 23, could get life in prison, but government prosecutors recommend a sentence of 40 years behind bars. Mohamud's attorneys want a term of no more than 10 years.

Mohamud was arrested Nov. 26, 2010, after pressing a keypad button on a black cellphone that he believed would trigger a 1,800-pound diesel-and-fertilizer truck bomb where thousands of people gathered for the annual lighting of a Christmas tree.

In reality, nobody was in danger. The bomb was a fake supplied by undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaida recruiters. The agents "befriended" Mohamud after learning he had written for an online jihadi magazine and exchanged emails with accused terrorists.

Jurors rejected Mohamud's entrapment defense at his January 2013 trial. But his lawyers continue to point out that the episode wouldn't have happened without government involvement, and that should lead U.S. District Court Judge Garr King to impose a more lenient sentence than what prosecutors seek.

The sentencing was originally scheduled for 2013, but it was pushed back after the government disclosed that warrantless overseas wiretaps helped make its case. The defense unsuccessfully sought a new trial.

In his sentencing memorandum, lead prosecutor Ethan Knight wrote that Mohamud never wavered in his willingness to kill thousands that November day.

"The evidence at trial established that defendant's murderous conduct was the culmination of a mindset that began to develop years before the commencement of the government's investigation," Knight wrote in the August 2013 filing. "Over that period, defendant became radicalized to such a startling degree that he was willing to commit chilling acts of violence in the name of Islamic extremism."

In a reply submitted two weeks ago, Chief Deputy Public Defender Stephen Sady described the recommended sentence as "draconian." He noted that Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif only got an 18-year sentence last year when he was sentenced for plotting to attack a Seattle military processing station with machine guns and grenades.

Unlike Abdul-Latif, Mohamud did not have a prior criminal background and has shown remorse. According to his attorney, Mohamud has spent his time in prison reading the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

"The defense of entrapment does not posit that everything is the government's fault and that he is guiltless," Sady wrote in the Sept. 19 reply. "On the contrary, he recognizes that the government had legitimate concerns regarding his writings and activities."

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Follow Steven DuBois at twitter.com/pdxdub