Christmas tree bomb plotter gets 30 years
02 October 2014, 10:59
Portland - A US judge sentenced a Somali-American man on Wednesday to 30 years in prison for trying to blow up a Christmas tree lighting celebration in Oregon four years ago with a fake bomb supplied by undercover government agents.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalised US citizen and former Oregon State University student, was convicted in January 2013 of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, despite defence allegations of government entrapment.
The prison term handed down by US District Judge Garr King in a Portland courtroom against Mohamud, who was 19 at the time of the bomb attempt, was 10 years less than the four decades prosecutors had sought, but longer than those in similar cases.
Mohamud was arrested shortly after prosecutors say he attempted to use his cellphone to remotely detonate what he thought was a car bomb near a square crowded with thousands of people attending a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in 2010.
The bomb, which was fake, had been supplied to him by undercover government agents posing as al-Qaeda operatives. There were no injuries, authorities said.
During a three-week trial in federal court that resulted in Mohamud's conviction, defence attorneys argued unsuccessfully that overzealous law enforcement officers posing as al-Qaeda militants invented a crime and entrapped their client.
In court papers filed in advance of the sentencing, federal prosecutors sought a 40-year sentence, arguing that Mohamud "believed he was going to maim and kill thousands of people by detonating a bomb". Defendants in similar cases have got 23 years to life, prosecutors noted.
Defence attorneys asked that Mohamud be sentenced to 10 years in prison, and said in court papers that he acknowledges the enormity of what he did and he "continues to feel shame and abhorrence for this conduct".
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Mohamud's lawyers said his constitutional rights had been violated because investigators obtained evidence through warrantless interceptions of electronic communications between their client and foreigners who were under surveillance.
Those arguments come at a time of increased public debate about government monitoring of electronic communications of Americans, in light of disclosures made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of US surveillance activities.
Tung Yin, a law professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, said that Mohamud's attorneys could be expected to appeal.
"They have nothing to lose and everything to gain," Yin said.