As defense attorneys began their closing arguments in the Fort Dix trial this afternoon, attorney Rocco Cipparone again called primary FBI informant Mahmoud Omar a "manipulator" and "serial fraud artist" who prodded his client to plan an attack on the Army base.
Mohamad Shnewer looked up to Omar like an older brother, said Cipparone, who represents Shnewer. He tried to appease Omar by discussing attacking a military installation and jihad, the lawyer said. But Shnewer repeatedly made excuses and delayed serious action such as buying guns, Cipparone said, because he never intended to carry out an attack.
Earlier today, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Hammer said in his closing statement that Shnewer and the other four defendants not only talked tough, they "meant what they said."
He cited conversations, secretly recorded by Omar, in which Shnewer took the initiative and suggested tactics and targets, such as firing a missile at the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.
All five defendants are foreign-born Muslims raised in South Jersey. Each faces life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. soldiers and attempted murder. Closing arguments could conclude tomorrow.
Cipparone said his favorite excuse offered by his client was when Shnewer told Omar he couldn't meet to discuss a map of Fort Dix because he had to get a haircut. He likened it to a woman who rebuffs a man's date invitation by saying she has to stay home to wash her hair.
"It's a feeble excuse to be polite," he said.