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USF grad disputes testimony that he fired at gun range

TAMPA — Karim Moussaoui testified Tuesday that a man who said he saw him violate his student visa by shooting a rifle at a gun range last summer was mistaken.

"I'm sure he lied," Moussaoui, 28, said on the witness stand during his trial. "If he's not mistaken, then I'm sure he lied. Because his answer was not true."

Earlier in the day, Bobby Robinson testified that Moussaoui fired the weapon as Robinson approached a shooting stall next to him at the Shoot Straight gun range. He said he heard a distinct "pa-tat" sound from the Walter G22 rifle that Moussaoui held.

At the time, Moussaoui, a native of Morocco, was a student at the University of South Florida. He has since graduated.

Federal law prohibits people with student visas from possessing firearms. Authorities charged Moussaoui with a crime after finding a photograph of him posing with the rented rifle on Youssef Megahed's home computer. Megahed, 22, is awaiting trial on a federal explosives charge with co-defendant Ahmed Mohamed, 26. Both are suspended USF students.

Along with the photograph, investigators used gun range surveillance footage to show Moussaoui positioning the rifle on his shoulder and pointing it down-range on July 19.

Moussaoui said the weapon wasn't loaded. He said he insisted that Megahed empty any bullets before handing it to him to pose for a photo to commemorate his first time inside a gun shop.

"I wanted a souvenir," Moussaoui said. "Wherever I travel, I take pictures. A Kodak moment."

Moussaoui's former defense attorney once described the charge against him as a ploy to keep Moussaoui in the country to testify at the explosives trial. Moussaoui had plans to return to Morocco to work for his dad.

Megahed and Mohamed were arrested Aug. 4 after a South Carolina deputy stopped them for speeding, then found what experts classified as low-grade explosives in their trunk. The men have said they were traveling with homemade fireworks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Monk attempted Tuesday to question Moussaoui about the South Carolina trip. Moussaoui said Megahed had invited him to go, but he declined. He had made plans to visit New York City during a school break.

Attorneys will make closing statements today.

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

USF grad disputes testimony that he fired at gun range 04/01/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2008 4:57am]
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