Defense lawyers for the Somali-born man accused of plotting to bomb an Oregon Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Black Friday, argued that the teenage suspect had been set up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Public defender Stephen Sady said in court Monday that government agents groomed 19-year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud and timed his arrest for publicity.
"One of the issues that will be coming up in this case involves whether and how he was directed in those actions by the government agents," Sady said.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder admitted FBI agents led Mohamud to believe they were terrorists and supplied him with a fake car bomb. However, Holder defended the sting, saying the teen was given ample opportunities to back out of the plot.
"This was an individual who was given a number of opportunities to desist from his course of action, but who at every turn decided that he wanted to continue," the attorney general said.
Holder added that the suspect was happy when he "was told that children - children - were potentially going to be harmed."
OSU Students in Shock
On the usually placid campus of Oregon State University, students have expressed stunned disbelief that someone from their ranks could have been at the center of a plot to bomb and kill thousands of Portlanders.
"It's kind of shocking," OSU student Dustin Fernandez said. "I didn't know anyone from OSU could be capable of doing that. I guess he wasn't a full time student, but still it is kind of shocking it was in Oregon also."
Mohamud pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday. A tentative trial date has been set for February.
Meanwhile, investigators are looking into a fire set Sunday to the Islamic mosque where Mohamud occasionally worshipped. Authorities believe the incident may have been an act of retaliation and have increased security at Islamic sites throughout Portland.
Worshippers have begun placing flowers and signs of sympathy outside the Corvallis, Ore. mosque.
"We abhor this criminal act of arson," one sign read. "We stand in solidarity with you."
Others saved their outrage for the radical Muslim teen who the FBI said desired the death and maiming of thousands of their fellow Oregonians.