Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

U.S. wants Tampa terrorism case evidence under wraps

TAMPA — Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to keep evidence in the case of a man accused of plotting terror attacks in Tampa out of the hands of everyone but those directly involved in the upcoming trial.

Sami Osmakac, a Pinellas resident being held without bail, is charged with attempting to use weapons of mass destruction and possessing an unregistered machine gun.

Osmakac's trial had been scheduled for next month. But on Wednesday, a judge agreed to continue it until August.

Evidence in the case is declassified, government lawyers said. But in a motion filed on Wednesday, they said, "These materials, while declassified, are still sensitive."

Osmakac's lawyers, who will have unrestricted access to evidence, do not object and said it will not impact their defense.

Prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill declined to comment. They do not describe in their motion in detail the evidence they plan to present at trial. They did note they want to protect the identity of a confidential source. It also is expected that some evidence includes telephone surveillance and secretly recorded conversations of Osmakac.

"Unrestricted disclosure" of evidence gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which includes recordings, "could adversely impact ongoing investigations to which those recordings pertain," prosecutors said.

Any protective order will not affect evidence presented at trial, which is open to the public. Osmakac, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in present-day Kosovo, faces life in prison if convicted.

Osmakac is accused of trying to buy guns and explosives, including a car bomb, to destroy targets in Tampa, including a Hillsborough Sheriff's Office operations center. His plans were thwarted when an acquittance reported him to the FBI. He said he wanted to instill terror in his victims' hearts, calling it "payback" for wrongs done to Muslims, an arrest affidavit said.

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