A Maryland man accused of plotting to blow up a military recruiting office last December suspected he was dealing with a law enforcement informant. But the smell of fumes from his petroleum bomb – rendered inert by the FBI – convinced him to proceed, prosecutors say in court papers.
Attorneys for Antonio Martinez want the case against him dismissed, or at least to have evidence and his recorded statements suppressed when the case goes to trial. Martinez, his attorneys say, was entrapped by the FBI.
In a 30-page reply, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Manuelian details the evidence which shows Martinez was intent on being a mujahid, or holy warrior, long before interacting with the informant. That includes comments Martinez posted on Facebook and his own statements to the informant.
Martinez, a convert to Islam who is also known as Muhammad Hussain, made a full confession after being arrested Dec. 7 in connection with a car-bomb plot targeting the Armed Forces Career Center in Catonsville, Md., Manuelian wrote. He admitted "that the attack was his own idea and that he had come up with it two to three months prior to meeting the confidential source."
He parked the bomb-laden sport utility vehicle in front of the recruiting center "to give the explosion more 'umph,' expecting that it would level the front where the soldiers were and insure that they died."
Two weeks earlier, a similar sting operation led to the arrest of a Portland, Ore. man who hoped to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Martinez told investigators he suspected he was being set up, too, "but when he smelled the fumes from the bomb, he thought maybe it was real, and when he got into the SUV he felt certain it was the real thing."
Martinez's case was among those highlighted in a recent Mother Jones story on entrapment researched by the University of California, Berkeley on entrapment.
But the legal standard for entrapment is evidence that the defendant lacked a predisposition for the crime, and otherwise would not have been involved if not pushed by the informant. The evidence, Manuelian writes, overwhelmingly shows Martinez was bent on destruction all along. He repeatedly said it was his idea, both while under surveillance and after his arrest.
"Moreover, when given multiple opportunities to back out of the operation, including the day before the actual event, the defendant continually chose to press ahead, even in the face of another individual being arrested in Oregon under similar circumstances. At one point the defendant explicitly told the confidential source that he was not being pushed into going forward with the attack saying, 'I came to you about this, brother.'"