During opening statements in the trial of an Oregon man accused of trying to bomb Portland's holiday tree-lighting ceremony, jurors heard defendant Mohamed Mohamud described alternately as a confused teen and as a younger person "radicalized to a startling degree."
Mohamud, now 21, faces a federal charge of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He is accused of working with undercover FBI agents to detonate a massive fake bomb inside a van parked near Pioneer Courthouse Square on Nov. 26, 2010.
The defense does not dispute Mohamud's involvement, but says he was entrapped. Jurors will have to decide if he was predisposed to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction before the government got involved.
"We are here today because the FBI intervened at a critical moment," government prosecutor Pamela Holsinger told the jury of seven women and five men in her opening statement.
At one point holding the cell phone Mohamud thought would detonate the fake bomb, Holsinger laid out a timeline of Mohamud's activities in 2009 and 2010.
She told jurors the evidence will show he had already decided he wanted to commit violence against citizens and called him a "prolific user of extremist websites and forums," including contributing articles to an online magazine called Jihadist Recollections in 2009.
Holsinger told jurors when an undercover FBI agent met with Mohamud in July 2010. The teenager was the one who brought up the idea of the bomb and told the agent he wanted to become "operational."
She said two agents gave Mohamud tasks to develop the plan, rent a storage unit and mail them bomb components, like a toggle switch, as a way to show him the realness of what he was proposing and as opportunities to back out.
"What might have deterred somebody else only made this defendant more excited," she said.
"The FBI simply went too far," Stephen Sady, Mohamud's defense attorney, told jurors in his opening statement.
He told the jurors the prosecution was starting at the end of the story and said the case comes down to Mohamud's state of mind when the government first contacted him in the fall of 2009.
According to Sady, the evidence will show the agent was the one to raise the idea of bringing war to the United States and encourage Mohamud to think about violence.
He told jurors, before government contact, Mohamud was a "teenager who talks big, does nothing until the FBI gets involved."
He told jurors they will hear recordings of Mohamud making offensive statements, but asked them to put their emotions aside to focus on the facts and the law.
Mohamud, wearing a brown sport coat, seemed alert as he listened to the opening statements.
The courtroom was filled to capacity, with Mohamud's parents, family friends, members of the media and spectators in attendance.
The trial resumes Monday at 9 a.m. It is expected to last up to four weeks.
Copyright 2013 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
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