Students' trial on explosives charges delayed

By KEVIN GRAHAM, Times Staff Writer
Published December 6, 2007

TAMPA - A judge agreed Wednesday to postpone the trial for two suspended University of South Florida students till March.

The trial had been set to begin this month. But defense attorneys and prosecutors said they needed more time to prepare.

FBI investigators are still running forensic tests on items taken from Ahmed Mohamed and Youssef Megahed after their arrests on explosives charges, according to court records.

In a three-page written order, U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday said the FBI has yet to fully analyze everything it seized from the men after their Aug. 4 arrest near a naval base in South Carolina. DNA tests, fingerprint analysis, explosives analysis and computer forensics are still under way, the judge said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office also is still preparing its reports and expert witness summaries, which it plans to turn over to defense attorneys by the end of the month. The defense must then consult its own experts.

"The delay sought is not significant, and the stated grounds for the additional time are reasonable," Merryday wrote. "Continuing the trial a couple of months will not adversely impact the public's interest in a speedy trial."

An Aug. 29 federal indictment charged both Mohamed, 26, and Megahed, 21, with illegally transporting explosive materials. Mohamed faces a charge of teaching or demonstrating how to make an explosive device. Both men remain in jail.

Megahed's attorney said the pair were on a college road trip with fireworks in their trunk.

Prosecutors said the men had what experts described as low-grade explosives. They also said Mohamed posted a video online in which he narrated and showed how to turn a remote-controlled toy into a detonator. Investigators found the video on a laptop in the students' car.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or 813 226-3433.