PORTLAND Ore. (Reuters) - A Somali-American man convicted of trying to blow up a Christmas tree lighting celebration in Oregon four years ago will be sentenced on Wednesday with prosecutors urging that he be sent to federal prison for four decades.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen and former Oregon State University student, was convicted in January last year of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Mohamud, then 19, was arrested shortly after prosecutors say he attempted to use his cell phone to remotely detonate what he thought was a car bomb near a Portland square that was crowded with thousands of people attending a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony the day after Thanksgiving in 2010.
In fact, the bomb was a fake, and had been supplied to him by undercover government agents posing as al Qaeda operatives. Nobody was hurt and authorities say the public was never in danger.
In court papers filed in advance of the sentencing, federal prosecutors urged a judge to sentence Mohamud to 40 years behind bars, arguing that he “believed he was going to maim and kill thousands of people by detonating a bomb.”
Defendants in similar cases have gotten 23 years to life, prosecutors noted.
Defense attorneys for Mohamud, who argued at trial that their client was entrapped by overzealous law enforcement officers posing as al Qaeda militants, asked that he be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
They said in court papers that Mohamud acknowledges the enormity of what he did and he “continues to feel shame and abhorrence for this conduct.”
Tung Yin, a law professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, said that regardless of the sentence handed down on Wednesday, Mohamud’s attorneys could be expected to file an appeal in the case.
“They have every incentive to appeal. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Yin said.
Mohamud’s lawyers have argued that his constitutional rights were violated because investigators obtained evidence through warrantless interceptions of electronic communications between the defendant and foreigners who were under surveillance.
Those arguments come at a time of increased public debate about government monitoring of electronic communications of Americans, in light of disclosures made by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of U.S. surveillance activities.
Reporting by Teresa Carson in Portland, Oregon; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Eric Walsh