Defense: Tampa terror suspect was too easily manipulated - FOX 13 News

Defense: Tampa terror suspect was too easily manipulated

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Undercover footage recorded by the FBI. Undercover footage recorded by the FBI.
TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Defense attorneys for Sami Osmakac say he is not the blood-thirsty terrorist prosecutors portrayed him to be during six days of testimony that featured secret video and audio recordings. Instead, they argue, he is a mentally unstable man who was easily manipulated and entrapped by the U.S. government.

Attorney George Tragos began presenting his defense of Osmakac Thursday after prosecutors rested their case. Osmakac is charged with trying to use weapons of mass destruction and being in possession of an unregistered machine gun. If convicted, he faces the possibility of life in prison.

Thursday, the case shifted from the hours of secret recordings presented by the government, to a battle of mental health experts. The first witness in Osmakac's defense case was a psychiatrist who testified that Osmakac is schizophrenic and delusional, has hallucinations, suffers from depression -- and has lost touch with reality.

The psychiatrist told the jury that people with these types of mental disorders can be easily manipulated or induced. That's exactly what defense attorneys say happened in this case.

They say Osmakac was seduced by money and weapons provided by a confidential informant working for the federal government and an undercover FBI agent.

Thursday, the government played audio recordings of Osmakac and the informant, in which he can be heard picking out targets for car bombs: The Gandy, the Howard Frankland, the Courtney Campbell and the bridge over Old Tampa Bay.

"If you take those bridges out -- and they won't have food, medicine, they (would) be shocked nobody can go to work, two million people, three million people will be sitting ducks," he can be heard saying.

Before becoming a terrorism suspect, Osmakac was something akin to a street preacher -- albeit a loud and bombastic one, prone to confrontation with anyone who disagreed. YouTube videos show him in a shouting and shoving match with a Christian preacher in Tampa. Other videos show him spouting off -- in hateful terms -- about Americans and Westerners.

But Tragos says none of that makes Sami Osmakac a terrorist. He says Osmakac couldn't even afford a sandwich or a cab ride, much less the expensive guns and explosives shown in the government's secret videos.

He says the plot only began to seem real when the government stepped in with the money to fund it, and the weapons to carry it out.

A psychologist is expected to testify Thursday about the mood disorders from which his attorneys say Osmakac suffers. Following that, prosecutors can present a rebuttal case with their own mental health experts. Closing arguments will follow.

Then it will be up to the jury to decide: Is Sami Osmakac a blood-thirsty terrorist bent on revenge for Muslim suffering worldwide -- or is he a mentally ill man with grandiose delusions who didn't even know know how to use the weapons provided by the U.S. government?

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