Lawyers for Ahmad Khan Rahimi, who’s been accused of plotting bomb attacks in New Jersey and New York, are taking the somewhat odd defense strategy of arguing — he’s not a terrorist.
Defense attorneys filed papers in federal court in Manhattan that accuses prosecutors of taking an inflammatory tack with jurors to paint their client as a terrorist. What exactly are prosecutors planning to do?
To show the evidence, it seems — that Rahimi, an Afghanistan-born U.S. citizen, was trying to flee less than 48 hours after the bombings in Mahattan.
The bombings in September of 2016 left 31 with injuries. Nobody was killed, however.
The lawyers said in papers filed in Manhattan federal court Thursday that prosecutors plan to show jurors inflammatory evidence against Ahmad Khan Rahimi at his October trial, including letting them hear that he owned a gun, shot at police and has been charged in New Jersey with attempted murder.
Prosecutors responded in court papers, saying “the defendant’s murderous efforts to flee, less than 48 hours after the bombings in Manhattan, are probative of his consciousness of guilt.”
Defense lawyers noted Rahimi has not been charged with a federal crime of terrorism.
Rahimi, an Afghanistan-born U.S. citizen, has pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he detonated a pipe bomb near a Seaside Park, New Jersey, charity run and planted two pressure cooker bombs in Manhattan last September. A bomb in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood went off, injuring 30 people.
Federal prosecutors said evidence defense lawyers want excluded from trial is important.
“The defendant’s interest in jihad, terrorist organizations, terrorist attacks, and other terrorists, is probative of his motive, intent, and plan to commit the charged crimes,” prosecutors said.
The defense said it is particularly bothered by government plans to show jurors emails seized from Rahimi’s electronic accounts that attach video links showing people with headscarves, an assault rifle and a rocket-launcher, and other links to a criminal complaint and “The Book of Jihad.”
“The government’s insistence on introducing these three plainly inadmissible emails can only be explained by the government’s desire to cherry-pick the most inflammatory evidence to force-fit the ‘radicalization’ theory it has drummed up to make its case more ‘compelling, dramatic, and seductive,'” the lawyers wrote.
The lawyers also asked a trial judge to reject government plans to show jurors a blood-stained notebook with a bullet hole in it that prosecutors contend resulted from Rahimi’s shootout with police when he was arrested two days after the bombing.
“The only plausible reason the government is trying to get this ‘evidence’ before jurors is to inflame them with evidence that Mr. Rahimi has a ‘bad character’ or is prone to violence,” they said.
Prosecutors say the document shows he started studying terrorist propaganda in 2012 and within a couple of years was learning to create the kind of bombs he used last September.
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