Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Defense portrays Sami Osmakac as being entrapped in terrorism case

TAMPA — Seated cross-legged on the floor of a Days Inn in Tampa, Sami Osmakac waved a pistol in one hand and wore a belt designed to hold explosives around his waist.

"This is payback," he said into a video camera, vowing to avenge the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Muslims in the Middle East and the Balkans.

"We're coming for your blood, and we're coming for your women's blood and we're coming for your children's blood," he said, an AK-47 propped against the wall behind him.

Unbeknownst to Osmakac, the man on the other end of the camera that day in 2012 was an undercover FBI agent. On Wednesday, he became the first witness to testify in the Kosovo-born, American citizen's terrorism trial, his identity hidden behind a screen and a pseudonym: Agent Amir Jones.

He told the jury how Osmakac had asked him to hold the camera while the man ranted for more than eight minutes, urging violence against non-Muslims in a video that was recorded for posterity but, until the trial, had been largely kept confidential.

Hours after the video was made, Osmakac was arrested in the hotel parking lot and charged with possessing an unregistered AK-47 and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Using a line of argument common in terrorism cases that rely on undercover federal agents, Osmakac's attorney George Tragos said his client was a zealot and a radical, but without the FBI agent's cajoling, would never have put his thoughts into action. Twenty-five years old at the time of his arrest, Osmakac was a "wild, young, poor, mentally ill person with lower-than-average IQ" who was susceptible to government entrapment, Tragos said.

"This entire case is like a Hollywood script," he said, and the script writers worked for the government.

Tragos noted that his client was broke. To buy weapons from the man he thought was a dealer but was actually an FBI agent, Osmakac leaned on an acquaintance, a man he believed was in his corner. In reality, the man had turned Osmakac in to the FBI and was being paid as an informer. Osmakac was using government money to buy government weapons, Tragos said. The FBI was on "both sides of this transaction."

Prosecutor Sara Sweeney portrayed the now 27-year-old Osmakac as a man bent on killing as many people as possible. To him, everyone was an infidel — the government, law enforcement officials and ordinary American citizens, she said.

Sweeney showed the jury a video Wednesday of Osmakac's first meeting in late 2011 with the undercover agent. In the recording, he orders weapons with the casual manner of a man asking for cream with his coffee. "Ten grenades minimum, if you can," he says. "Maybe a couple of Uzi because they're better to hide."

The agent said Osmakac then gestured to his waist, indicating that he wanted to buy a suicide bomber belt. In a later meeting, he added an item to his order: two or three bombs that he would detonate in rental cars. The agent quoted him a price of $2,500 for the entire arsenal.

Osmakac's plan, Sweeney said, was to park one of the car bombs outside MacDinton's, an Irish bar in South Tampa, and set it off remotely via a cellphone. His next step would be to strap on the belt filled with explosives and head to the Hard Rock Casino, where he planned to shoot patrons and explode the grenades. He wanted to take hostages, Sweeney said, people he could use as bargaining chips to win the freedom of Muslims held in American prisons. He expected that police officers would surround him, and when they did, he would pull the trigger on the explosives strapped to his torso.

He did ultimately acquire a 100-pound car bomb, grenades, an AK-47 and a pistol — all weapons provided by the FBI agent, and none of them in working order, a fact of which Osmakac was unaware.

"You'll see the joy on Mr. Osmakac's face as he gets the guns and the explosives he asked for," Sweeney told the group of 12 jurors and six alternates selected Wednesday.

Throughout his meetings with the undercover agent, all of which were recorded, Osmakac expressed concern that he was under surveillance.

He worried that the FBI was using airplanes and cars to track his movements, and had been ever since he took a trip to the Middle East. He told the agent that he couldn't use the Internet anymore because he was being spied on, and that the government was tapping his phone calls.

While sitting in the agent's car, he asked the man to turn on the radio to drown out their conversation in case anyone was listening.

Classical music filled the car as they discussed how long it would take to make homemade grenades, their every word captured by the FBI.

As the music ended, the radio DJs could be heard announcing the name of the last piece, a Bach arrangement. It was called Sheep May Safely Graze.

Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.

Comments
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Published: 12/16/17
Aquarium reopens to divers

Aquarium reopens to divers

Florida Keys News BureauVisitors to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters dive with among indigenous Keys fish Friday in Marathon. The attraction reopened Friday after closing just before Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. Although tourism f...
Published: 12/16/17
Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

MIAMI — With burrowing iguanas showing up in people’s toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state’s booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles. The Florida Fish and Wildlif...
Published: 12/16/17

Fan helps fund Miami Stadium’s historic marker

MIAMI — For thousands of kids who grew up in Miami, going to the old Miami Stadium in the Allapattah neighborhood was a part of coming of age. Opened on Aug. 31, 1949, with a game between the Miami Sun Sox and Havana Cubans, two Class B Florida Inter...
Published: 12/16/17
Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

OCEAN CITY, Md. — Phil Heasley of Naples caught the fish of his life, but the $2.8 million in tournament prize money got away. Heasley reeled in a 6-foot white marlin last year off Maryland’s coast. But in a sign of how concerned some big money tour...
Published: 12/16/17
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Published: 12/16/17

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital Saturday afternoon.About 12: 45 p.m., Terry Lee Bronschidle, 70, of Tampa was driving his Chevy Traverse south on...
Published: 12/16/17
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch has won 10 straight after Friday’s victory over Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental league, the ...
Published: 12/16/17