MIAMI — A Kenyan man accused of supporting terrorists around the world claims in new court documents that jailhouse informants were improperly used as U.S. government agents to gather evidence against him.
The FBI used as many as five informants to gather what may be incriminating evidence against Mohamed Said and obtain the defense's trial strategy, attorney Silvia Pinera-Vazquez said in court documents. She also said attempts were made by some informants to persuade Said to seek a different lawyer who might cut a deal for him to plead guilty rather than go to trial.
The motion asks a judge to suppress any evidence from the informants, contending such actions would violate Said's constitutional rights to effective legal counsel.
"Such actions are a blatant interference with Mr. Said's right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment," Pinera-Vazquez said in the motion filed Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ordered the Miami U.S. attorney's office to disclose by Friday "whether the informants were at any time acting as government agents."
Said, 27, is scheduled to stand trial in June on eight terrorism-related charges involving alleged support for al-Qaida and terrorism groups in Africa and Syria. Said has pleaded not guilty and has been jailed at Miami's downtown detention center since his 2013 arrest.
The charges are based on chat room conversations Said allegedly had with Florida-based undercover FBI operatives about financing terror groups and recruiting fighters for Islamic extremist groups overseas. A co-defendant, Gufran Mohammed, is serving a 15-year prison sentence after pleading guilty last year.
Pinera-Vazquez said in her motion that the FBI use of jailhouse informants was recently disclosed to her in seven FBI reports detailing how Said allegedly made incriminating statements while in custody and discussed his defense. A cornerstone of the defense is whether prosecutors can prove it actually was Said at a computer in Mombasa, Kenya, when some of the terror-related online conversations took place.
In one example, Pinera-Vazquez said one informant, identified only as "E.T.", told U.S. investigators about a key laptop located at Said's home in Kenya, leading to a search of the home with the help of Kenyan authorities and seizure of the laptop.
Said's family was also questioned for several hours, the attorney said, adding that the entire episode was "the direct result of information illegally obtained by the government."
The two men were arrested in 2013 in Saudi Arabia and flown directly to the U.S. to face the terrorism support charges. They had never met face-to-face before their arrests.
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