The sentencing of a Somali-American man convicted of trying to bomb a holiday tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore., in 2010 has been put on hold indefinitely. That move comes just days after the Justice Department notified his lawyers that part of the case against him had been "derived from" secret NSA electronic surveillance.
Both sides met Tuesday in the chambers of U.S. District Judge Garr King to discuss next steps. The judge later issued a public order delaying the sentencing of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, which had been scheduled to take place Dec. 18.
"If sentencing remains appropriate, the court will reset the sentencing hearing," after it rules on motions from federal public defenders Stephen R. Sady and Lisa Hay, the judge's order said.
The move could foreshadow months or even years of legal wrangling, if the case becomes a vehicle to challenge the constitutionality of once-secret NSA monitoring of overseas email and social media accounts.
The Supreme Court this year turned back a challenge to surveillance law by a group of human rights workers, lawyers and reporters because they could not demonstrate they had been monitored or subjected to any harm. But the fresh disclosure to Mohamud and a series of other defendants in cases where U.S. prosecutors used secret surveillance could help overcome that hurdle.
Defense attorneys Sady and Hay will file court papers seeking discovery from prosecutors early next year. The defense lawyers had no comment on the latest developments in the case. But the heart of their arguments to the Portland jury that convicted Mohamud was that undercover FBI agents entrapped him using a phony fertilizer bomb. Mohamud, 22, has been living in federal custody in northwest Oregon.
For previous coverage, see Justice Says FISA Was Used To Help Crack 2010 Oregon Bomb Plot