Reporter April Baer spoke with Beth Hyams Friday about the case.
Beth Hyams: Attorneys have started to create two differing narratives they hope will convince a jury about what happened between Mohamed Mohamud and undercover FBI agents two years ago. Mohamud is on trial for a bomb plot that developed during a sting operation. Prosecutors and defense attorneys gave their opening statements today.
April Baer joins me now with this live update, from the federal courthouse in Portland.
Beth Hyams: April, how did prosecutors outline their case?
April Baer: Prosecutor Pam Holsinger showed the jury a picture of Pioneer Courthouse Square November 26th 2010, lit up and filled with people. She held up the cell phone Mohamud used to key in the code he thought would fill that Square with a huge explosion.
She went on to say the government will show the FBI intervened with Mohamud at a time when he was actively corresponding with people the government found very troubling. She talked about Mohamud living what she called a double life, telling his parents he had no plans to go abroad, even as he was talking to online contacts about going to Yemen.
She listed step after step Mohamud agreed to take on. Buying a cell phone, a toggle switch, and other equipment for the plan. And she read out transcriptions of things Mohamud said to the agents. When they asked him to think about what he was undertaking, Holsinger quoted him: “If you’re going to Paradise, you don’t’ have to worry, right?”
Another email to Mohamud noted a bomb is a serious matter. His reply - though we don’t’ have the full context— was, according to Holsinger, “The traffic light is green LOL.”
She closed noting that on the day Mohamud was arrested, he had an email from a man the FBI considers a recruiter, sending an address and phone number in Yemen, saying, “Let me know your arrival date.”
Beth Hyams: And what shape are defense arguments taking?
April Baer: Lead defense attorney Steve Sady told the jury he will not dispute the story prosecutors tell about the plot. As he put it: “That all happened.” But, he went on, the FBI is starting the story, in his words, “at the end.”
He shared excerpts from emails in which Mohamud initially declined to meet with the FBI operatives, writing, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”
He said the FBI worked on him, exploiting everything they learned about his personal life and insecurities, through months of full-time surveillance.
The defense, Sady said, will show that Mohamud made no move to form any sort of of plot until the FBI approached him. Sady brought up a communication that only came to light a few days ago, suggesting the FBI found Mohamud quite impressionable, before agents enacted the sting.
He talked about how the FBI made it impossible for Mohamud to fly to Alaska to get a summer job on a fishing boat, made him feel even more isolated and alienated, then sent agents who went to work on Mohamud using what Sady called “powerful social psychology: praising him and trying to cut him off from his roommates and family.”
Overall, Sady said the FBI went too far. In America, he said, we don’t “create crime.”
In both cases, the opening statements reflected themes we’ve seen in pre-trial filings. But today, prosecutors and defense attorneys had their narratives honed to a razor edge.
Beth Hyams: What’s coming next?
April Baer: Monday the judge will likely offer the jury preliminary instructions. We may also hear testimony of FBI undercover employees who met with Mohamud as soon as Monday.