Christmas tree lighting bomb-plot trial to begin today
PORTLAND, Ore. - More than two years after prosecutors said Mohamed Mohamud plotted to detonate an explosive bomb during Portland's Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, the former Oregon State University student is set to go to trial today.
Jury selection is expected to last at least two days. The 12-member jury will be selected among a pool of about 100 people.
Opening arguments could be heard as early as Monday in Judge Garr King's courtroom at the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Portland.
Mohamud, who went to high school in Beaverton prior to attending OSU, is charged with one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
The case hinges on whether the 19-year-old was a victim of entrapment, as the defense contends, by overzealous FBI agents who corresponded undercover with Mohamud for months before the Nov. 26, 2010 event. Prosecutors allege Mohamud showed clear signs of jihad extremism prior to the attempted bombing.
Conspiring with the federal agents - who were disguised as jihad extremists - prosecutors say Mohamud planned to bomb the annual tree lighting at Pioneer Square in downtown Portland.
The 1,800-pound bomb was fake, provided by the federal agents who took Mohamud into custody after they said he made the attempt to detonate the explosive by calling a number on a cellphone.
While the defense suggests Mohamud's young age made him especially vulnerable to entrapment, federal prosecutors said in court documents that he increasingly showed signs of terrorism in the years before the alleged plot.
"In a moment defendant claimed he had been thinking about since he was 15, he finished dialing the number" that was supposed to detonate the bomb, federal prosecutors wrote in an 85-page trial memorandum.
In the memorandum, prosecutors said Mohamud corresponded with jihad extremists by email about his views and also contributed terrorism-related articles to online jihad publications.
Contacted by the FBI agents the summer before the tree-lighting, Mohamud began telling them about his alleged plans to coordinate a bombing at a high-profile event, according to the memorandum.
"It's gonna be a firework displaya spectacular show," said Mohamud, according to court documents. "New York Times will give it two thumbs up."
Over the course of the four-week trial, prosecutors could call as many as 29 witnesses, including many FBI agents.
Defense attorneys said in court documents that they plan to call three expert witnesses, including two psychologists and one terrorism expert.
If convicted, Mohamud could face life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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