Judge rejects new trial motion in Portland terror plot

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PORTLAND — A federal judge in Oregon on Monday rejected a defense request for a new trial for a young Somali American convicted in a terrorism case, finding that no serious miscarriage of justice occurred during his trial.

U.S. District Judge Garr King ruled on motions filed by lawyers for 21-year-old Mohamed Mohamud. The judge also rejected a defense motion to acquit the young man.

On Jan. 31, jurors found Mohamud guilty of attempting to detonate a bomb at Portland's 2010 Christmas tree-lighting ceremony. The bomb was a fake, provided by government agents posing as terrorists.

"I conclude that no serious miscarriage of justice occurred during the trial, even when I view the issues raised by the defense cumulatively," King said.

Mohamud's chief lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Oregonian reports that the defense team argued points expected to be raised on appeal after Mohamud's sentencing. The defense contends the young man was entrapped.

Jurors were given starkly different portraits of the man who was 17 when the FBI began to focus on him. In the prosecution's description, Mohamud was an angry teenager with the right combination of anti-Western sentiment and a plausible cover story as an Oregon college student.

In the defense's version, he was confused, broke and suffering under the weight of parental expectations. Gullible and eager to please, he fell into a plot of the FBI's making, following along with men he imagined were like family, Mohamud's attorneys said.

In the post-trial motions, the defense contended that King's decision to allow undercover FBI agents to testify under the fake identities of Youssef and Hussein hampered the defense's ability to test the agents' truthfulness and prevented Mohamud from exercising his right to fully question his accusers.

The judge found the defense cross-examination was effective.

King did not allow the defense to call an FBI informant identified only as "Bill Smith."

The defense "has not persuaded me that testimony from Bill Smith was vital to the defense, particularly in light of the information I learned from Bill Smith" in a closed-door hearing with prosecutors, King said.