“Minnesota men” go to trial (19)

Both the prosecution and defense rested their cases yesterday following the testimony of defendant Guled Omar. Omar was the only one of the three defendants who elected to testify on his own behalf. I infer that defendants were advised by their capable lawyers to exercise their right to remain silent and put the government to meeting its burden of proof against them, but that Omar chose to reject that advice. I am quite sure that the other defendants saw the wisdom of their attorneys’ advice during the cross examination of Omar by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Winter.

Omar was an effective witness on his own behalf during direct examination on Thursday. He spoke directly to the jury. He was sympathetic. He had explanations. He was somewhat believable, or believable at least in part. For every guilty act or incriminating statement he had an exculpatory account.

Winter started clumsily and, I thought, inefectually. His points were weak or obscure. He was disorganized. He struggled. He had a hard time locating the material on the basis of which he sought to impeach Omar.

Winter nevertheless got on the right foot after the lunch break. He quickly played a succession of audio clips of conversations recorded by co-conspirator turned informant Abdirahman Bashir. The clips are devastating. They show the other side of Omar’s face. He ran out of explanations. He acknowledged (mostly) that he said what the transcripts showed. He said he didn’t mean it. He was pretending, or boastful, or conflicted.

He began to wilt. He lost his mojo. I thought it fell apart for him on cross examination.

Omar’s testimony gave the prosecution the opportunity to revisit some of the greatest hits recorded by Bashir. Omar is the guy who received the names and addresses of 16 pilots (and family) from one of the “Minnesota men” with ISIS In Syria. His friend in Syria wanted Omar to murder them. Omar recoiled from the message, not because it was an invitation to murder, but rather because it was “hot” (That’s my observation, not a point made on cross examination.)

As for the various messaging accounts involved in the instructions from Syria: “I deleted everything.”

Winter showed Omar’s efforts to avoid detection by law enforcement. “I was precautions, bro,” he explained to his friends.

Winter revisited Omar’s discussion of his friends who were turned away from their attempted travel to Syria at JFK Airport. Referring to the FBI, Omar said: “The kufar, they learned their lesson.”

“The kufar” have his number. Which reminds me. Observing the several FBI witnesses who have testified at trial, I have reflected that this is one institution President Obama has not yet ruined.

If he and his friends had succeeded in making it to Syria, Omar asserted to his friends: “We would have done crazy ass damage or we would have all been shaheeds.” What did he mean? He didn’t seem to know what he meant.

Omar is also the conspirator heard saying on one of the recordings that once they learn the spots in Mexico, they would be able to help ISIS enter the United States. “They already look Mexican. They’re Arab.”

And one more thing: “They’ll do crazy ass damage. Wallah, we have a big opportunity.” Well, he had a big opportunity.

The attorneys representing the other defendants didn’t touch Omar. They had no questions for him.

Omar’s attorney tried briefly to limit the damage on redirect, but he failed. Time and again, Omar asserted that he was just boasting or trying to impress his friends. He “was trying to sound like a bad guy who knows what he’s doing.” On some points, Omar contended, he was “confused in [his] head.” By the conclusion of his testimony on redirect he had run out of explanations. Given the limitations of the form, Star Tribune reporter Stephen Montemayor’s article on yesterday’s proceedings doesn’t quite capture what happened.

With that the government and defendants rested. Closing arguments will commence Tuesday morning. Judge Davis is going to give the parties time to review the evidence with the jury and make their case. He said he was not going to rush things; the closings would give the jury a lot of information to digest. He thinks he will instruct the jury and submit the case to them on Wednesday.