NEW YORK — American jurors no longer need to be schooled about al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden and other significant icons of the terrorism world, a lawyer for a man accused of plotting bomb attacks in New Jersey and New York that injured 30 people told a judge on Tuesday.
Assistant federal defender Sabrina Shroff cited bin Laden and others as she argued for the exclusion of the government’s terrorism expert from the trial this fall of Ahmad Khan Rahimi.
“I think everybody knows who bin Laden is, or was,” Shroff said of the leader of al-Qaida during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, who was killed in a May 2011 raid on his compound in Pakistan by U.S. special forces.
She said prosecutors wanted to use the terrorism expert “to add on to the indictment this gloss of terrorism.”
“They want to inject that into a case that is already volatile enough,” she said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Crowley said the terrorism expert was necessary in part to explain references Rahimi made in an eight-page document that the defendant had included in a notebook he kept.
Crowley said the document shows that he started studying terrorist propaganda in 2012 and within a couple of years was learning to create the kind of bombs he used last September.
“It’s the defendant’s claims of responsibility, telling the world, telling the United States government … what he did and why he did it,” Crowley said.
Rahimi, a 29-year-old Afghanistan-born U.S. citizen, has pleaded not guilty to detonating a pipe bomb near a charity run in Seaside Park, New Jersey, and planting two pressure cooker bombs in Manhattan on Sept. 17.
The Seaside Park bomb didn’t hurt anyone. One of the Manhattan bombs didn’t explode, but the other detonated in the Chelsea neighborhood, causing the injuries.
Rahimi’s trial is scheduled to start days after the anniversary of his arrest, which came two days after the bombings when he was severely injured during a shootout with police outside a bar in Linden, New Jersey.
Defense lawyers also are seeking to strike down the last two counts of an eight-count indictment. They are charges that could result after conviction in a mandatory life prison sentence.
U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman in Manhattan said he’ll rule Thursday.