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'Explosives' wouldn't explode in tests, FBI chemist says at Youssef Megahed trial

TAMPA — When an FBI forensic chemist ignited the mixture inside a PVC pipe recovered at the time of Youssef Megahed's arrest, it "burned vigorously" but didn't explode, the expert said Monday in court.

Ronald L. Kelly, forensic chemist at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., testified about the substance that he determined to be a potassium nitrate mixture with Karo syrup.

FBI test results, made public through court filings in January 2008, had already revealed what happened when analysts tested the materials: they either burned, released smoke or did nothing at all.

Adam Allen, Megahed's attorney, has characterized the materials as a harmless pyrotechnic mixture, based on FBI testing.

Prosecutors dispute that, saying FBI experts consider the mixture dangerous. The degree of danger, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hoffer has argued, depends on their use and their surroundings.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Monk attempted to question Kelly about whether a similar potassium nitrate mixture is used in Qassam rockets in the Middle East. Kelly said he didn't have enough independent, credible information to respond.

Other FBI experts also testified throughout the day Monday, including a DNA expert and a fingerprint expert.

Megahed is charged with illegal transportation of explosive materials and a destructive device. He has denied knowing the PVC pipes were inside the trunk when deputies stopped him and fellow University of South Florida student Ahmed Mohamed for speeding in Goose Creek, S.C., on Aug. 4, 2007.

Mohamed is serving a 15-year prison sentence for providing material support to terrorists. He pleaded guilty to posting a YouTube video showing how to turn a child's toy into a detonator. Mohamed said the video was to be used by enemies of the United States.

Testimony in Megahed's trial is expected to last all week.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

'Explosives' wouldn't explode in tests, FBI chemist says at Youssef Megahed trial 03/23/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 23, 2009 10:18pm]
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