ISIS trial closing arguments: Prosecutor points to violent 'audio-video diet'

- For three hours, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Docherty walked the jury in a federal terror case through three weeks of testimony and evidence.

Citing “persistent efforts to join ISIL,” Docherty told jurors that the men themselves are the material support they’re accused of trying to supply a terror group.  And, he argued, that the violent videos that witnesses testified they all watched meant they knew killing was part of the equation.

“This is the diet, the audio-video diet,” said Docherty, “that formed the impressions of the defendant what they were going to do when they reached Syria, which they dearly wanted to do.”

Guled Omar, Mohamed Farah and Abdirahman Daud are charged with 10 counts total, the most serious being conspiracy to commit murder outside the United States.

Docherty walked jurors through the three phases of the alleged plot, the first being the spring
of 2014, when in the weeks after Hanad Mohallim successfully traveled to Syria, Docherty says the defendants were part of the first meeting of a larger group plotting to follow suit. 

Mohallim would be the first of three men who made it to Syria that spring and early summer.  Another man, Abdillahi Yusuf, testified in court he was trying to get to Syria when he was stopped at the MSP airport in late May of 2014.

At this same time is when defendant Guled Omar’s family stopped him and two others from driving to San Diego, which he claimed was for vacation.  One of the other men was Abdirahman Bashiir, who would later turn informant, and who testified the trip was intended to get to Syria through Mexico.

Docherty said the summer appeared quiet, but the plotting continued.  The second phase would come in late fall when four men were stopped at JFK airport on November 8th attempting to fly to various European destinations, all claiming to be traveling alone on vacation.  But evidence showed all four had taken the same bus to New York and purchased plane tickets that morning from the same computer.

Two days earlier, defendant Guled Omar had been stopped at the MSP airport trying to fly to San Diego, where Docherty alleges his plan was get a fake passport and fly out of Mexico.

“Interesting coincidence that every time Omar plans to take a trip to San Diego, his buddies try to make a run to Syria. Except it isn’t coincidence, it’s evidence. Evidence of a conspiracy,” said Docherty.

The third phase, he said, came in the spring of 2015, when Mohamed Farah, Guled Omar and the informant Bashiir drove to San Diego and bought fake passports from an undercover agent, which the FBI had set up and directed Bashiir to do.   Docherty argued this was not entrapment, because the men had been talking about getting fake passports long before Bashiir became informant.  The FBI simply gave them the chance “to do what they’d long yearned to do, long itched to do.  There is simply no entrapment in this case.”

As for the money paid to the informant, totaling $119,000 dollars, Docherty pointed out much of this was to pay for hotel rooms when Bashiir spent months working with FBI agents going over his recordings. 

And while jurors may question Bashiir’s motives because he got paid, “the recording device did not,” he said, arguing that the evidence recorded speaks for itself.  “It’s just impossible for the money, in other words, to influence the tapes.”

The defense attorneys will take the entire afternoon for their closing arguments.  Before the jury gets the case, the prosecution has a chance for rebuttal and the judge must give them lengthy instructions.

It’s expected deliberations will start on Wednesday.

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