Former USF Student Gets 15 Years In Terror Case
December 18, 2008
Former USF Student Gets 15 Years For Aiding Terrorists
The Tampa Tribune Dec 18, 2008
A former University of South Florida student was sentenced today to 15 years in federal prison for providing aid to terrorists by making an Internet video on how to use a toy to start a bomb by remote control.
Videos showing exploding rockets, coalition troops and a blue, plastic toy car were shown in the federal courtroom.
Ahmed Mohamed, 27, who is from Egypt, was arrested in August 2007 with fellow student Youssef Megahed. Megahed is awaiting trial on charges of transporting explosives after the two men were accused of having explosives in the trunk of their car in South Carolina. Mohamed hung his head very low as U.S. District Court Judge Steven Merryday sentenced him.
Before the sentencing, Mohamed apologized for his actions. "I admit the video was not something that was a wise idea," he said. "I never intended to harm anyone in particular.
I am deeply sorry. I am convinced I have learned a lesson. I am no more than a college guy." Mohamed said he wanted to have kids and teach them "a difference in opinion doesn't give us the right to harm each other."
Mohamed, who admitted he posted the video on the Web site YouTube, avoided trial by pleading guilty to the terrorism charge.
Prosecutors said this morning that the instructions Mohamed gave on the video were accurate. Mohamed's version of modifying a toy for use in exploding bombs remotely would work.
Defense attorneys portrayed Mohamed as leading an otherwise exemplary life. His background was so clean, said lawyer Linda Moreno, that he worked for American companies in Cairo, including Haliburton.
"While it's a terrible video, and it's a horrible video, in the context of what's happening in the world and in the context of what's happening in the Middle East, I can ask the court to consider it from that point of view," Moreno said
. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Monk said the video had 782 views while it was posted on YouTube.
Prosecutors painted a picture of an Islamic extremist determined to harm "stupid" Americans.He told an FBI agent, "You don't understand, you have made me a hero." He also said, "Americans are more stupid than pigs, and you cannot deny this."
Monk said Mohamed told an agent, "It is the wish of every Muslim to die at the hands of the invaders, and he will get credit for this when he dies."
Monk read from letters Mohamed wrote from jail to his parents and another person where he talked about the Muslim religion taking over the world.
Prosecutors argued Mohamed came to the United States to gather information about explosives and to hurt U.S. interests.
Mohamed said he made the video to help "martyrs" who want to attack American troops overseas.
The defense had asked for an eight-year sentence, contending there were no victims of this crime because there was no proof anyone downloaded the video and used it to hurt anyone.