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Slow start for federal explosives trial of Youssef Megahed

Samir Megahed, the father of Youssef Megahed, whose trial is beginning this week, walks up the steps of the U.S. District Federal Court in Tampa on Monday.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Samir Megahed, the father of Youssef Megahed, whose trial is beginning this week, walks up the steps of the U.S. District Federal Court in Tampa on Monday.

TAMPA — Jury selection resumes today in the federal explosives trial for former University of South Florida student Youssef Megahed.

The 35 potential jurors on Monday introduced themselves to U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday and prosecution and defense attorneys. The judge instructed them to return at 9 a.m. today, when he will begin eliminating candidates and selecting 12 to serve along with alternates.

Megahed, 23, was arrested Aug. 4, 2007, after a South Carolina sheriff's deputy stopped him and fellow student Ahmed Mohamed for speeding. The deputy searched the car when he became suspicious and found low-grade explosive materials in the trunk.

Mohamed said they were sugar rockets that he planned to use in celebration of his birthday. Prosecutors, however, contend the explosive materials could have readily been transformed into something more sinister, though they have no proof of a motive.

Megahed has denied knowledge of the trunk's contents.

Mohamed is serving a 15-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to providing material support to terrorists. He admitted posting a video to YouTube, discovered during an FBI investigation after his arrest, that was designed to show potential terrorists how to turn a remote-control toy into a detonator.

Monday in court, prosecutors read a list of approximately 50 potential witnesses they may call at trial. The defense presented a potential witness list with fewer than half as many names.

Megahed has been charged with illegally transporting explosive materials and possession of an unregistered firearm or a destructive device. His trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

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

Slow start for federal explosives trial of Youssef Megahed 03/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 7:34am]
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