PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Mohamed Mohamud, the young Somali American convicted of trying to bomb Portland’s downtown square while it was filled with holiday cheer, will learn Wednesday if he gets to leave prison before he’s an old man.
Mohamud, 23, could get life in prison at Wednesday’s hearing in U.S. District Court, but federal prosecutors recommend a 40-year sentence. The Somali American was arrested Nov. 26, 2010, after pressing a keypad button on a cellphone that he believed would trigger a bomb where thousands of people gathered for the annual lighting of a Christmas tree.
In reality, nobody was in danger. The truck bomb was a fake supplied by undercover FBI agents posing as al-Qaida recruiters. The undercover agents made friends with Mohamud — a teenager at the time — 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. His lawyers, however, continue to point out that the former Oregon State University student had no plans to attack until after he met the undercover agents.
The sentencing was originally scheduled for 2013, but was pushed back a year after the government’s disclosure 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 has shown remorse and did not have a prior criminal background, Sady wrote. “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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