Former USF student Youssef Megahed was finally acquitted of two explosives charges after spending more than eight months in jail and almost a year under house arrest. Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed were arrested in South Carolina in August 2007 on accusations of transporting explosive materials in their car.
Plastic pipes filled with potassium nitrate and syrup were found in the trunk during a traffic stop, and it was discovered that Mohamed had made a video showing how to use a remote control toy to detonate explosives and had posted it on YouTube. Mohamed pleaded guilty last year to one count of providing material support to terrorists and received a 15-year prison sentence after federal prosecutors agreed to drop six other charges.
The defense argued that all the evidence against Megahed was circumstantial, and the lack of evidence against him should have led to a much hastier resolution. However, Megahed was not completely blameless.
According to ABC Action News, the pair claimed they were on a road trip to visit Carolina beaches, and the defense argued that the pipes were harmless “sugar rockets.” Due in part to their Middle Eastern descent, the pair attracted immediate attention, and suspicion of terrorism ran high.
Megahed and Mohamed claimed from the beginning that Megahed had no knowledge of the alleged explosives, and the defense attempted to get him acquitted based on a lack of evidence, yet the trial dragged on. Megahed was suspended from USF after his arrest, and the long jail time has derailed his career path.
The defense contributed to the length of the trial by repeatedly attempting to have evidence dismissed. Fox News reported that the evidence linking Mohamed to terrorism could not be used in Megahed’s trial because the two were tried separately. Last year, videos of armed rockets found on Megahed’s home computer were dismissed from the trial, and last month a judge dismissed an anti-U.S. propaganda film found on Mohamed’s computer, according to Fox News.
Now that the trial is over, Megahed plans to resume his normal life. According to ABC Action News, he wants to return to USF to complete his engineering degree and then find a job. If Megahed was truly ignorant of Mohamed’s terrorist ties, then he is at least guilty of foolishness. He should have paid more attention to his friend’s activities and behavior. More prudence in his associations could have spared him a lengthy trial, jail time and popular disdain.