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Mohamed files not guilty plea to explosives charges

A suspended USF student faced with federal explosives charges joined the ranks of Debra LaFave, the former middle school teacher who had sex with a student, and American Idol finalist Jessica Sierra, who faces felony battery charges, after local celebrity lawyer John Fitzgibbons submitted documents to federal court in Tampa on Wednesday that made his relationship with the student official.

The suspended student, 24-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, an Egyptian national in the United States on a student-visa, also submitted a written not-guilty plea Wednesday, and waived his right to be present at arraignment, the process by which defendants verbally enter a plea before the court.

Mohamed, who is also charged with making and teaching how to use an explosive device, was pulled over for speeding with a second suspended USF student, Youssef Megahed, in Goose Creek, S.C. on Aug. 4. After agreeing to a voluntary search of their Toyota Camry, the pair was arrested for transporting what were thought to be pipe bombs.

Analysis of the materials later revealed that the PVC pipes found in the trunk contained a mix of Karo corn syrup, cat litter and potassium nitrate.

A laptop in the car belonging to Mohamed was also examined. At the time of their arrest, it had been used to view Web sites about explosive-making and contained files and folders with similar subject matter.

Mohamed has admitted to making and uploading a video to YouTube in which a man, whose face is outside the video frame, explains in Arabic how to turn a toy boat into a remote-controlled detonator for an explosive device.

Their trial is set for Dec. 3.

The Egyptian embassy is paying for Mohamed’s defense. The Federal Public Defender’s Office is representing Megahed.

Victoria Bekiempis can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or