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Accidental recordings give peek into FBI’s Osmakac investigation

— Jurors in the Sami Osmakac terrorism trial were given a rare glimpse Monday into the inner workings of the FBI team that created the sting operation that caught him.

Testifying behind a screen, an undercover FBI agent using the name “Amir” said under cross-examination that some of his conversations with fellow agents were inadvertently captured on audio recordings by the equipment used to record his encounters with Osmakac.

The prosecution says Osmakac planned to unleash mayhem on Tampa in a terrorist attack involving a car bomb outside a busy pub and then an attack involving an automatic gun, grenades and a suicide vest inside the Hard Rock Casino.

The defense is arguing that Osmakac was entrapped by the FBI sting, and defense lawyer George Tragos tried to use the transcripts of the recordings to probe the intent of the FBI team.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Sweeney argued, largely successfully, that any conversations and the intent of the FBI agents was irrelevant. The only thing relevant, Sweeney asserted, was what the agents did with Osmakac.

U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven agreed with Sweeney that the transcripts should not be publicly released. But the judge did allow Tragos to elicit a couple of snippets of information regarding the inner workings of the FBI team.

For example, Tragos quoted a supervisor as saying, “They want this Hollywood ending. That’s great. Plus, they want attempted WMD. I don’t remember a Title 18 code for that one.”

Title 18 is the law covering federal criminal offenses.

Tragos asserts the “Hollywood ending” for the case was the “martyrdom video” the agent recorded Osmakac making before he was arrested. But Amir said he didn’t see it that way.

Asked by Sweeney, the agent said he didn’t think there was a Hollywood ending to the case.

Osmakac is charged with attempting to possess a weapon of mass destruction and possession of an unregistered machine gun.

Amir also made a statement, according to the testimony, that Osmakac was “in flux” on the location of his intended target for a terrorist attack in Tampa. And the agent said he worried about the money Osmakac was being given by the government’s paid informant. Amir testified that his concern was that Osmakac would use the money to buy weapons from a source other than the FBI.

Under questioning from Sweeney, Amir said Osmakac told him he had previously gone to South St. Petersburg to try to buy guns from drug dealers.

The defense maintains that Osmakac was susceptible to entrapment because he is mentally ill.

Tragos asked Amir if he thought Osmakac was irrational.

“I regard anyone who wants to kill women and children as irrational,” the agent responded.

Tragos has also argued that Osmakac didn’t have the money to pay for what he needed to get to launch an attack. Amir conceded that the night of the planned attack, he was concerned Osmakac wouldn’t have enough money to pay a taxi to drive him from the site of the car bomb to the hotel where his own car would be.

Tragos also went over with the agent the instructions for triggering the fake “car bomb,” which had been typed and taped to the box containing the “detonator.” Tragos argued to Amir that he had done that because Osmakac was so incompetent he couldn’t remember what to do.

“That’s not why the instructions are there,” the agent said. “The instructions are there so I don’t forget, myself.”

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Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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