PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Mohamed Mohamud was sentenced to 30 years in prison for trying to detonate a bomb in Pioneer Courthouse Square during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in 2010.
Mohamud, now 23, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison and lifetime supervision after release by Judge Garr M. King in US Federal Court in downtown Portland. Mohamud will receive credit for the four years he spent in custody prior to the sentencing.
Prosecutors wanted a 40 year sentence, while his defense team only wanted 10 years.
In a statement outside the courtroom after the sentencing, Mohamed’s mother, Miriam Mohamud, was adamant in her belief the judge’s decision was an “injustice.”
“A government we trust should not do that,” she said. “We contribute to this country, we have never done anything. … They should not entrap young boys.”
She said that she came to the United States with the same dreams other people have.
“We are Muslim and our religion does not teach to kill innocent people,” she said. “The FBI should not tell kids, ‘This is what you should do.'”
Below is a letter Mohamed Mohamud wrote to the judge in 2013 during a pre-sentencing hearing:
His lead lawyer said an appeal is pending due to “significant issues with the case.”
In signaling their intention to appeal the sentencing, his legal team said they believed imperfect entrapment was an issue.
“The whole notion of ‘sting operation’ as it played out in this trial will lead to some significant discussions by our policy makers,” the lawyer said.
“This case began with parents asking for help,” Mohamud’s lawyer said. “Interactions with Mohamud and undercover operatives included instruction…(and authorities) allowed events to proceed to the day after Thanksgiving.”
In her remarks following the sentencing, prosecutor Amanda Marshall said the 30-year sentence sends a strong message to violent extremists.
Mohamud, she said, was in contact with jihadists and Muslim extremists “well before” his father contacted the FBI, Marshall said.
Marshall said she hopes for closure in this case.
“I understand the family’s concern,” she said. “That doesn’t comport itself with the facts presented at trial.”
National FBI Director James Comey, who happened to be visiting Portland on Wednesday, defended his agents’ tactics and the undercover operation.
“We have no interest, and we have no time to be dragging people into doing things that they’re not inclined to do. And so that’s why we look at these things very carefully to make sure that the person we’re dealing with is a threat,” said Comey.
Then 19, Mohamud was arrested Nov. 26, 2010. As thousands of people packed Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown, FBI agents were with him as he attempted to detonate a bomb packed inside a van. The FBI said the bomb was inert, and did not pose any threat to the people standing feet away from the vehicle or the 70-foot tree.
Mohamud, prosecutors said, “never hesitated or wavered in his willingness and desire to kill thousands that day.”
Mohamud, prosecutors said, was a “prolific user of extremist Internet websites and social networking forum.” Mohamud posted and wrote on those forums, which prosecutors said was a demonstration of his commitment to “extremist principles.”
In August 2009, Mohamud’s father called the Portland FBI Field Office and told them he was “worried” about his son. Mohamud’s father “told the FBI that his son had taken his passport and told him he was leaving to go to Yemen to study Islam,” prosecutor said.
By June 2010, the FBI arraigned for an undercover agent to start communicating with Mohamud. The first meeting between Mohamud and the undercover agent happened July 30, 2010 in a downtown Portland hotel.
A second meeting was set up on August 19, 2010 with another undercover agent. During that meeting, Mohamud reportedly said that he had started thinking about “violent jihad when he was 15 years old,” prosecutors said.
The FBI said that by that second meeting, Mohamud had already developed his plan to detonate a massive bomb in Portland, but that he just needed “the right people” to help him execute it.
The FBI monitored Mohamud closely. The final meeting between the two undercover agents occurred Nov. 26, 2010.
That day, prosecutors said Mohamud was “calm but enthusiastic about what he was about to accomplish.” Around noon, an undercover FBI agent picked up Mohamud at a friend’s house in Beaverton. They drove to a Portland hotel where they waited for the other FBI agent.
The group left the hotel to “look at the bomb,” that was parked nearby, prosecutors said. The bomb was actually a fake that had been constructed by the FBI. When the FBI agent opened a panel to the bomb “diesel filled the air,” court documents state.
Mohamud stepped back, with a smile on his face and remarked that the 1800-pound bomb was “beautiful,” court documents state.
When the FBI agents gave Mohamud a phone that he thought would detonate the bomb, the first attempt did not work. The agent “suggested that [Mohamud] step out of the car where the signal might be stronger and try it again,” court documents state.
Mohamud tried it again and that’s when he was immediately taken into custody.
After the trial
In a letter to Judge King, Mohamud wrote “My actions on November 26th were terrible…My hear is filled with remorse, shame, sorrow, pain and misery every time I think about my actions on that day.”
The letter continues with an apology for the harm he caused. “I have hurt not only my family and my friends, who had thought so well of me, but also my fellow Americans who trusted me as their fellow compatriot.”
Since his arrest, Mohamud writes that he has had to “re-evaluate” his “whole life, question everything that I had ever believed and discovered who I was and who I truly wanted to become. I decided I wanted to walk a better path.”
He writes about having to listen to the FBI recordings of him talking about killing Americans: “To sit down and listen to the tapes has been the most humiliating experience of my entire life.”
He ends his letter by writing, he cannot change what happened. “All I can do is try to make myself a better person and give back wherever I can. I have renounced and I again renounce my former beliefs. I am willing to speak to young Muslims to help keep them away from the path of extremism.”
KOIN 6 News reporters Ken Boddie and Brent Weisberg contributed to this report.