TAMPA — A federal judge on Friday sanctioned the government by excluding newly disclosed evidence taken from Youssef Megahed's computer that prosecutors intended to use at his explosives trial.
"It's hard to see why we shouldn't say 'Enough is enough' and go with what we have," U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday said.
Prosecutors almost immediately filed an appeal.
Defense attorneys challenged the use of nine video clips recovered from Megahed's computer, which showed rockets launching in combat zones in the Middle East and explosive devices being used against what appear to be U.S. military vehicles. Along with the videos, prosecutors planned to show jurors several documents, which weren't fully described in court records or at a hearing.
At least one of the documents investigators recovered from Megahed's computer was a military manual of some kind.
Merryday also excluded the use of a 40-minute video from Ahmed Mohamed's laptop, which Megahed was holding at the time of a South Carolina traffic stop on Aug. 4. That stop ended with Megahed and Mohamed, two former University of South Florida students, being arrested on explosives charges.
Someone had accessed the video less than an hour before a deputy stopped the car for speeding. The 40-minute video contained footage similar to that on the nine, shorter clips taken from Megahed's home computer.
Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors violated a rule by not turning over relevant evidence by a January deadline. FBI agents didn't learn that the videos on Megahed's computer were viewable until April 21. The defense received the evidence three days later. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Monk blamed the delay on a technicality.
Megahed, 22, is scheduled to stand trial on Monday, accused of illegally transporting explosive materials across state lines and possessing a destructive device.
Monk said prosecutors considered the Megahed computer video clips and documents "very important" to their case.
He called the judge's sanctions and exclusion of evidence "extreme."
"Somebody has to pay here now," Merryday said. "To use the word 'extreme,' I don't know what extreme means. This is a difficult situation where the trial pends for months and months. Just at the last minute … here comes some new stuff."
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