PORTLAND — There’s no dispute that a 19-year-old Muslim college student tried to set off a car bomb at Portland’s 2010 Christmas tree lighting ceremony, but how he reached that point is the crux of his trial that began in federal court this week.
A jury of seven men and nine women will decide whether this was a case of the U.S. government preventing the radicalization of a young Somali-American man, or was instead the FBI’s coercion of an impressionable, hotheaded braggart into a plan he was otherwise incapable of carrying out.
Mohamed Mohamud’s attorneys began to build their case during opening statements Friday, arguing that he was the victim of a sophisticated manipulation by undercover FBI agents.
“In America, we don’t create crime," defense attorney Steve Sady said. “The FBI cannot create the very crime they intend to stop. And sometimes, it’s just a matter of going too far."
Sady said Mohamud was an impressionable 18-year-old who talked big about carrying out terrorism plots but had neither the means nor the experience to follow through.
That changed, Sady said, when undercover FBI agents posing as jihadist co-conspirators provided Mohamud with a fake bomb in November 2010.
Prosecuting attorney Pam Holsinger said Mohamud was on the path to radicalization, and it was only the FBI’s intervention that prevented him from committing terrorism in the U.S. or abroad.