Can 'lone wolf' terror suspect claim entrapment? It will be hard to prove.
The FBI reportedly decided that Jose Pimentel, the 'lone wolf' terror suspect arrested by the NYPD, was not a credible threat. But translating that into an entrapment defense will not be easy, experts say.
According to the New York Police Department, Jose Pimentel was a “lone wolf” terrorist intent on bombing Post Offices and banks and assassinating US soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. And, when he was arrested last Saturday night, the police say he was within an hour of having a working bomb.Skip to next paragraph
So, why did the Federal Bureau of Investigation decide Mr. Pimentel was not a credible threat, according to various press reports, and will that make any difference if his case goes to trial?
According to criminal defense attorneys and others not involved with the case, Mr. Pimentel, who has pleaded not guilty, will have a hard time trying to find a way to mount a defense based on the fact the FBI was not involved.
And, say lawyers who follow terrorism cases, it will be difficult – though not impossible – to mount a case that Mr. Pimentel was entrapped by the government.
“More and more we are seeing the defense claim entrapment,” says Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School in New York, referring to recent terrorism cases. “But, it is very rare for them to take it to court.”
The reason it’s so hard for defendants to mount an entrapment defense is because the burden of proof shifts from the prosecutor to the defense, she says.
“In a normal trial, the prosecutor – the government – has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt to the jury,” explains Ms. Greenberg. “In an entrapment case the defense has to prove entrapment, versus poking holes in the government’s case, and that’s a very hard defense to mount.”
From the documents, there is no doubt the district attorney will be counting on a “confidential informant” who was deeply involved with Pimentel, aka Muhammad Yusuf. So far that individual has remained anonymous.
“These conversations, most of which were audio recorded, involved the defendant discussing his plans with a confidential informant under the control of the NYPD,” said Detective Robert Roloph, in court documents.
According to the complaint, the NYPD also recorded phone calls, videotaped efforts to make bombs, and read blogs and postings by the defendant, who had established a website, www.trueislam1.com. On the site, according to the filings, was a link to an article entitled, “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Home.”
Terrorism experts say those Internet postings may make it difficult for his defense.
“He left muddy footprints on the Internet. He made his intentions clear,” says Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington. “His intent was to cause harm.”