Government evidence against a man accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Kansas airport will be shielded from the public, a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot granted the prosecution's request for a protective order in the case of Terry Loewen, a 58-year-old avionics technician charged with plotting to attack Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport on Dec. 13. The ruling sets out procedures for the handling of sensitive evidence exchanged before trial, resolving the government's fears that publicly disclosing evidence would expose its investigative methods and ultimately compromise their ability to stop future plots.
Loewen was arrested Dec. 13, after a monthslong undercover sting, when he allegedly tried to drive a van filled with inert explosives onto the airport tarmac, a plot prosecutors say was timed to cause "maximum carnage" at the height of the holiday travel season. Loewen has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use an explosive device to damage property and attempting to give material support to Al Qaeda.
Belot's order forbids making available any materials provided by the government in the case to those who aren't involved, and it allows Loewen to have access to the material only in the presence of his attorney, who must retain possession of the evidence.
It also specifically prohibits prosecutors or defense attorneys from disseminating evidence to the media, and forbids disclosing the real or fake identities of the undercover agents who befriended Loewen in the months leading to his arrest.
All materials provided to Loewen's attorneys will remain the property of the government, Belot ruled. Loewen's attorneys must return them and all copies once the case ends and erase from computers and servers any that exist in electronic form. Attorney notes also must be destroyed once the case is resolved.
Defense attorneys had previously told the court they would not disclose any information provided by the government, and they tried to assure Belot they would not disclose the FBI agents' identities and that such "professional obligations" didn't require a protective order. They criticized the government for trying to "micromanage" the defense with what they called burdensome and intrusive restrictions.
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