Videos tossed out in FL explosives trial

May 2, 2008 3:58:59 PM PDT
An Egyptian college student facing federal explosives charges won a victory Friday when a judge threw out some videos considered by prosecutors to be key evidence in his trial next week. Videos of armed rockets found on Youssef Samir Megahed's home computer were revealed by prosecutors too late to be used against him in trial, U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday said. Prosecutors said the videos depicted rockets being used in Middle East conflicts.

The judge also ruled that a video stored on the laptop of co-defendant Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed is irrelevant to Megahed's case and cannot be used against him. The video shows Mohamed demonstrating how to convert a remote-control toy into a bomb detonator, prosecutors said.

Megahed, 22, goes to trial Monday on charges stemming from an August 2007 traffic stop in South Carolina. Authorities say they found bomb-making materials in the trunk of the car he and Mohamed were riding in. The defense says it was homemade fireworks.

The men, both University of South Florida students at the time, are charged with illegally transporting explosives and possession of a destructive device. Mohamed also faces terrorism-related counts stemming from the how-to video. He will be tried separately in July.

Prosecutors have yet to present evidence linking the men to a specific plan to carry out a terrorist act. They hoped to use the videos from Megahed's computer to show that he had researched explosives and armed rockets.

Prosecutor Robert Monk called them "highly relevant to the government's case."

Monk suggested that Merryday delay the trial to give Megahed's attorneys more time to prepare for countering the videos, which were turned over in late April. The judge refused, noting that Megahed has been in jail since his arrest and should not endure further delays.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment on the judge's rulings afterward.

If convicted of the two charges, Megahed could get up to 20 years in prison, although sentencing guidelines call for significantly less prison time.

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