By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – An Afghan-born man charged with setting off bombs in New York and New Jersey will be tried in New York after a federal judge rejected his lawyers’ argument that he could not get a fair trial in the city where he is accused of injuring 30 people.
At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman denied a motion to move the case against Ahmad Rahimi to another federal court, saying an impartial jury could be assembled in “one of the largest and most diverse districts in the country.”
Lawyers for Rahimi, a U.S. citizen, had proposed Vermont and Washington, D.C. as possible alternative venues.
Rahimi, 29, is facing federal and state charges in New York and New Jersey after authorities said he detonated bombs in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and in the coastal New Jersey town of Seaside Heights last September.
The bomb in New York injured 30 people but the explosion in New Jersey hurt no one.
According to prosecutors, Rahimi also left behind unexploded bombs in New York and in Elizabeth, New Jersey, before he was captured in Linden, New Jersey, following a shootout with police in which two officers suffered minor injuries.
In their motion to transfer the case, Rahimi’s lawyers argued that media coverage of the case would make it impossible to assemble an impartial jury. But Berman said Monday that robust questioning of potential jurors would be enough to ensure fairness.
Berman also noted that other high-profile cases had been tried in the Manhattan court before, including those of Mohammed Salameh and Ramzi Yousef, convicted of helping plan the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Sabrina Shroff, a lawyer for Rahimi, said after the hearing the motion could be renewed once questioning of potential jurors begins.
A judge in New Jersey state court, where Rahimi faces separate charges, has also refused to move the case.
Motions like Rahimi’s are rarely granted, even in high-profile cases. For example, federal judges refused to move the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, despite massive pretrial media coverage.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)