Oregon: Lawyers for Muslim who attempted jihad mass murder will appeal, challenge secrecy of key witnesses

He attempted to detonate a bomb that would have murdered thousands of people. He tried to detonate it; he just didn’t know it was fake. Whether or not the witnesses’ identities were known doesn’t change that fact, but Mohamed Mohamud’s lawyers are playing the victimhood card anyway: “Mohamed Mohamud’s lawyers will challenge secrecy surrounding key witnesses in Portland terrorism trial,” by Bryan Denson for The Oregonian, February 2:

Mohamed Mohamud’s lawyers are expected to appeal his terrorism conviction with a new attack on an old target: the nation’s security versus the constitutional rights of suspected criminals to confront their accusers.

The FBI made its case against Mohamud in 2010 by sending a pair of agents, posing as al-Qaida terrorists, to cozy up to him and determine whether he posed a public danger. A few months later, the FBI arrested Mohamud after he tried to detonate a fertilizer bomb — fake, as it happens — that the undercover agents presented to him during their sting operation.

Mohamed Mohamud faces a possible life prison term, but also could spend no time at all in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. His sentencing hearing is set for May 14. In the meantime, he remains at the Justice Center Jail in downtown Portland.

Prosecutors haven’t decided how long a sentence to ask the judge to impose, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan D. Knight.

“We’ll have to wait and see what further investigation, a pre-sentence report indicate about the defendant and specifically what information is brought to the court by the defense,” Knight said. “Then we’ll thoroughly examine that and make a recommendation to the court. But obviously it’s too early to make a decision.”

Chief defense attorney Stephen R. Sady said he will seek a “substantially reduced sentence” for Mohamud. “We hope the judge will consider the many mitigating factors that came out during the trial, and we will presenting others at sentencing,” he said.

Mohamud didn’t take the stand during his trial, but the sentencing presents another opportunity for him to address the court.

U.S. District Judge Garr M. King let the agents testify against Mohamud using their pseudonyms “Youssef” and “Hussein.” He also allowed them to wear light disguises and hide their faces from all but essential players in the trial. The judge noted that identifying the agents could put them at risk and cause serious damage to national security.

The jury found Mohamud guilty on Thursday of attempting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction at Portland’s 2010 holiday tree-lighting ceremony. Within 25 minutes, his legal team announced plans to appeal.

Defense lawyers are almost certain to argue before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that withholding the true identities of the government’s star witnesses violated their 21-year-old client’s Sixth Amendment right to confront his accusers.

“We were deprived of the opportunity to know who the operatives were, and to inquire into their backgrounds,” said Steven T. Wax, Oregon’s federal public defender, who served on Mohamud’s legal team.

This left the defense with no way to determine for certain whether the agents were perjurers, overzealous or had a troubling pattern of conduct that might help Mohamud’s case, Wax said.

Government prosecutors have consistently disputed that accusation, saying they turned over all evidence required of them — including anything that might have had any appearance of pointing toward Mohamud’s innocence.

“If there was any information about disciplinary action or past false statements (by agents), we would have been obligated to turn it over to the court and it would have been part of that (summary),” said Kent S. Robinson, the No. 2 prosecutor in the Oregon U.S. attorney’s office….

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