Some eighteen months after his conviction in an FBI-led plot to blow up Pioneer Courthouse Square in 2010, Mohamed Mohamud stood before the federal judge who was about to sentence him and offered up an apology.
"The things I said and did were terrible," Mohamud told US District Court Judge Garr King's courtroom, the Oregonian reported this morning. "I want to apologize to everyone, to the community."
Mohamud and his attorneys were hoping for leniency, 10 years in federal prison, after arguing all along that the boy, 19 at the time, was entrapped by FBI agents who've increasingly relied on stings and false plots to bring convictions against American Muslims on charges of domestic terrorism.
But King's decision cut much closer to the federal prosecutors who argued that no matter how much cajoling they did, no one but Mohamud pressed the button that he thought might kill hundreds during the city's holiday tree-lighting ceremony nearly four years ago. They wanted 40 years, short of the life sentence King could have ordered. Instead, Mohamud was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison—marking another milestone a case that touched on major constitutional issues and became another flashpoint in a national fight over civil liberties.
His attorneys were predictably disappointed, according to the O, and they suggested one of the costs of the federal government's use of stings to target and groom disaffected young men and women.
Lisa Hay, one of the attorneys representing Mohamud, noted that Mohamud's parents reached out to the government when they feared he was becoming radicalized. "It's hard to imagine any family" making that choice after this, she said.
They also argued Mohamud, because of his youth and remorse, could have been rehabilitated and returned to society before he was too old.
"His life is worth saving," the O reported Hay and public defender Steven Wax writing in court documents.
In January 2013, a jury decided none of the FBI's grooming of Mohamud mattered—even though he hadn't though about plotting an attack until the government approached him—because of his singular willingness to choose the location of the false November 2010 attack, press the button, and help FBI operatives he thought were Islamist agents. He was convicted of attempting to detonate a weapon of mass destruction.
Jurors also didn't mind the absence of a major piece of the government's evidence against Mohamud: The recording that would have captured his first meeting with federal agents was missing. Without it, jurors had to take the government's word that nothing untoward happened that might have equated to entrapment. Moreover, the judge declined to release the names of the FBI operatives who helped the sting, keeping Mohamud's attorneys investigating whether the agents possibly had credibility issues.
Both of those issues seemed likely to fuel an appeal, once sentencing happened. And his attorneys have, indeed, promised to file one in the next 14 days.