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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — One thousand, four hundred and six days after he screamed "God is great" while police officers dragged him into a waiting van, a young Somali American was sentenced to 30 years in prison for plotting to detonate a bomb.
His intended target was a downtown Portland square one night after Thanksgiving 2010, where thousands of revelers watched the mayor light a towering Christmas tree. The bomb was a fake, part of an elaborate FBI sting with Mohamed Mohamud as its target.
Mohamud was 19 then, a fact a federal judge in Portland took into account when sentencing him Wednesday to three decades in prison. His attorneys asked for a prison on the West Coast, and pledged to appeal his sentence.
In their telling, Mohamud was a vulnerable, confused teenager, a prime target for the FBI sting. By playing on his Muslim faith, the undercover agents posing as jihadis lured him into a six-month plot that effectively brainwashed him: The Oregon State University freshman who entered the plot left it fully radicalized.
But U.S. District Court Judge Garr King rejected that analysis. While Mohamud was indeed young and lacked the means to carry out a terrorist plot, he had the will and ambition, King said Wednesday.
When given the choice to participate in an internal, peaceful struggle, Mohamud instead declared he wanted to "become operational." He maintained that course even after being told he would see corpses and body parts.
Prosecutors had sought a 40-year term for Mohamud, now 23. But King said the defendant's youth and remorse for his actions helped lower his sentence.
King said he believes the actions of undercover FBI agents edged into "imperfect entrapment," the idea that while they didn't fully entrap Mohamud in a legal sense, they encouraged him to commit wrongdoing.
"This is a sad case," King said.
Mohamud and his parents spoke before he was sentenced.
"The things I said and did were terrible," Mohamud said. "The hardest thing is to go over the (undercover agents') tapes, to see myself, to hear what I was saying."
His mother, Mariam Barre, begged the judge for leniency.
"Give him another chance," she said through tears on the witness stand.
His father, Osman Barre, said he has watched his teenage son become an adult in prison and mature in the process. But King said Mohamud's youth aside, the sentence had to both punish him for his actions and serve as a warning for anyone planning similar acts.
FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday that King's remarks about "imperfect entrapment" will have no effect on the agency's sting operations.
Osman Barre was the first person to alert the FBI of his son's early leanings toward violent jihad, something he later said he regretted. The alert led the FBI to launch its sting operation.
Comey said Wednesday that parents in a similar situation ultimately have no other recourse, and he's unsure whether Mohamud's case would discourage them from coming forward.
"I just don't know what the alternative is," Comey said.
Jurors rejected Mohamud's entrapment defense at his January 2013 trial. The sentencing was pushed back a year after the government disclosed that warrantless overseas wiretaps helped make its case. The defense unsuccessfully sought a new trial.
Associated Press writer Steven Dubois contributed to this report.
Reach Duara at https://www.twitter.com/nigelduara
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