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Mohamed Mohamud Trial: Day 5

Friday was a difficult day for the defense in the Mohamed Mohamud trial.
Over the course of Friday morning and early afternoon, the jury was presented with a series of video and audio recordings showing what had transpired in the hours leading up to Mohamed's Nov. 26, 2010 arrest on a charge of one count of Attempted Use of A Weapon of Mass Destruction. Later Friday afternoon they were taken from the courtroom to view the van used in the sting, presumably with its fake explosives still inside but that's only conjecture on my part since public spectators were not invited to the viewing.

In brief, what the jurors saw Friday was Mohamed in a hotel room eating pizza with the two FBI undercover operatives (hardened al-Qaeda explosives expert and wise father figure) "Hussein" and (globe-trotting al-Qaeda recruiter and chummy big brother) "Youssef" a mere hour or two before all three would leave the hotel to drive to a location on NW Lovejoy to collect what Mohamed allegedly then believed to be an explosives-rigged van. A concealed camera mounted on the dashboard of the van shows Mohamed calmly riding in the passenger seat of the van as Agent Hussein drives around Pioneer Square a couple of times until the parking space he needs on Yamhill is free, which it soon is thanks to the conveniently-timed departure of the FBI vehicle that had been pre-positioned there well in advance. From the van's windows, it appears that many people have already gathered at the square in anticipation of the tree-lighting ceremony.

After Agent Hussein gets the van parked, he directs Mohamed to attach a connecting wire leading from the six huge explosive- and nail-filled barrels in the back to a cell phone taped to the console between the van's front seats. Mohamed shows no visible sign of indecision as he complies with Agent Hussein's instructions, allegedly believing as he twisted that wire that he was arming the cell phone so that when he entered its number on the keypad of a second cell phone he would be detonating a bomb so powerful that as many as 25,000 people would be instantly reduced to a gory pile of humanburger. Personally, it's hard to imagine how even jurors with as strong an inclination toward sympathy for Mohamed as I have could have watched those clips and not felt sick.

I'm not a lawyer and know nothing about trial strategy, so it's just more uninformed conjecture on my part that we'll probably have to wait until the defense puts on its case to find out how it is going to meet the challenge of convincing jurors to place the disturbing images they saw Friday into the fuller context of Mohamed's vulnerable emotional and mental states and the fact that both states were cynical and calculated constructs of FBI agents trained in the science of psychological manipulation.


• In Agent Youssef's written report to his handlers on his first face-to-face meeting with Mohamed on July 30, 2010 (you may recall that this meeting went unrecorded because Agent Youssef's body wire "malfunctioned," as this equipment so often apparently does at these critical initial meetings with FBI "targets"), Agent Youssef characterized Mohamed as having expressed a desire to "wage war in the U.S." Under cross-examination, however, Agent Youssef admitted that he didn't actually recall hearing Mohamed use those precise terms, and he also conceded that since he had not put these words within quotation marks in his written report, they may have been the agent's own description, not Mohamed's, of Mohamed's ideas about what he "could do for the brothers."

• Before witness testimony began Tuesday morning, Judge King denied the jury's written request for the legal definition of entrapment. King told the jurors that he would include the definition in his instructions to them at the end of the trial before they began their deliberations, but that in the meantime he wanted them to be able to listen to testimony with "open minds." Well, I don't know about you but I, for one, don't understand how denying jurors the explicit wording of a standing law furthers the pursuit of truth and justice, nor do I understand how knowledge of the definition of a law would compromise a juror's impartiality.

• So far during the trial, the Govt. has already made several references to the 2009 emails that initially brought Mohamed to the FBI's attention. In the emails, Mohamed wrote about wanting to go to Yemen and was looking for a means to obtain an extended-stay or student visa so he could further his Islamic studies at a university he wanted to attend there. The Govt. has cherry-picked the phrase "meet the right people" from one of these emails and has been using it totally out of context in what seems to me like an flagrantly specious attempt to inculcate in the the jurors' minds the idea that the "right people" are violent terrorists, whereas in fact these "right people" seem to be just some folks who have diplomatic or other connections that give them access to visas.