IN BRIEF: Mohamed faces teaching explosives trial alone

One of two suspended USF students facing federal explosives charges will be tried separately from his co-defendant for one count against him – teaching how to use explosives.

U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday wrote Thursday that Ahmed Mohamed will face trial alone for teaching how to use or make an explosive device.

“The alleged manufacture and distribution of the ‘teaching’ charged in Count II occurred before the events in South Carolina on Aug. 3, 2007,” Merryday said. For the pair to be tried together, Merryday wrote, it would have to be clear that Mohamed and co-defendant Youssef Megahed worked together to commit the crime.

Assistant U.S. Public Defender Adam Allen argued in court Wednesday that associating Megahed with Mohamed would hurt his client’s case.

“It inappropriately prejudices the defendant,” he said. “There are no facts or allegations that Megahed had anything to do with that.”

For Merryday, such clarity was absent. To him, the evidence did not “present any fact that causes the disinterested observer to suppose that in any perceptible manner the events alleged in Count I (teaching how to use or make explosives) pertain to either Megahed or the events alleged in Count II (transporting explosives without a license) that involve Megahed.

The charges for teaching how to make or use an explosive device came after a video surfaced following the arrest of Mohamed and Megahed in Goose Creek, S.C. on Aug. 4, in which authorities found what were thought to be pipe bombs in the back of their car. Subsequent investigation turned up a YouTube video in which Mohamed – who later admitted to making the video – instructs the viewer on how to turn a toy boat into a remote detonating device.

Merryday ruled that Megahed will stay in jail until and during the trial. The district judge also denied Megahed’s request that prospective jurors fill out questionnaires as part of the selection process.

Additional reporting by Amy Mariani.