Accused New York, New Jersey bomber to be tried in New York

Ahmad Rahimi, 28, is shown in Union County, New Jersey, U.S. Prosecutor's Office photo released on September 19, 2016. Courtesy Union County Prosecutor's Office

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)

Accused New York bomber due in court to face charges

Suspected bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi appears via video in a New Jersey state courtroom from his hospital bed, where he is recovering from gunshot wounds suffered during his arrest, in Elizabeth, New Jersey

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A man accused of injuring 30 people in September when he set off a homemade bomb on a crowded New York street, as well as planting other explosive devices around the region, is due in federal court on Thursday to face charges.

Ahmad Khan Rahimi, 28, is scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court to be arraigned on the charges, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction, which could result in a mandatory life sentence.

Prosecutors have accused the Afghan-born U.S. citizen of setting off an explosion in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood on Sept. 17, which did not kill anyone but hurt 30 people.

The attack came hours after authorities say another pipe bomb planted by Rahimi went off along the course of a charity road race in New Jersey, though that detonation did not injure anyone.

Federal prosecutors also say Rahimi left another bomb in Chelsea that did not go off and several explosive devices in a bag at a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

He was captured after a manhunt that ended with a shootout with police officers who discovered him sleeping in the doorway of a bar in Linden, New Jersey. The confrontation left him with severe injuries, delaying the filing of federal charges.

He has also been charged by federal and state prosecutors in New Jersey.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)