It was another round of sparring over evidence Tuesday in the case of the young man accused of trying to set off a weapon of mass destruction at Portland’s Christmas tree lighting in 2010.
The federal judge overseeing the case ordered prosecutors to turn over more evidence to his defense team.
The government’s accusations against Mohamed Mohamud have changed little since the week of his arrest.
Prosecutors claim the young man from Beaverton started corresponding in summer 2010 with a couple of men he believed to be Islamic extremists. They were actually FBI operatives.
They say he proposed detonating a bomb downtown at Portland’s holiday tree lighting ceremony. Police arrested Mohamud in possession of a dummy bomb, constructed by the FBI, at the event later that year.
Judge Garr King issued rulings Tuesday ordering prosecutors to turn over all statements made by Mohamud, including electronic, telephone and recorded conversations. The prosecution argued that the recordings aren’t relevant to Mohamud’s defense, and that they aren’t required to provide them.
King denied other defense requests about evidence in the case, and said he would consider others with reservations.
Defense attorneys persisted in their calls for more information about how the government handled the investigation.
Federal public defender Steven Wax argued someone from the defense team should be privy to the judge’s review of evidence gathered through overseas wiretaps, gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
It’s not exactly clear what the nature of that evidence may be. Mohamud had conversations with an unnamed associate based in Pakistan, who may or may not have been working for the US government.
Wax noted that when the government started keeping tabs on Mohamud’s communications the young man was 17 years old - still a minor. In response to an inquiry from Judge King, Wax declined to cite any precedent for how the government should have handled the case. But he said the law does place an obligation on the government to treat juveniles differently, particularly since, in Wax’s view, his client’s First Amendment rights might be in play.
He asked the court to consider defense counsel’s need to know about the FISA-approved surveillance, to prepare an appropriate defense.
Federal prosecutor Ethan Knight said he would not get involved in a discussion of material facts regarding wiretaps. He did cite a precedent from a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling he says addresses the question, finding in the Government’s favor.
Even if the case goes to trial, as scheduled, October 2nd, some of the evidence in question may never see the light of day, because it’s classified.
April Baer is covering the Mohamud trial for OPB. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.Find more Mohamud trial coverage here.