tampabay.com

Lawyer: FBI test finds no danger

One student's lawyer says the report shows two weren't lying about fireworks.

By JAN WESNER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 31, 2008


TAMPA - An FBI report shows that the PVC pipes found last year in the possession of two University of South Florida students were harmless fireworks and not explosives, according to an attorney representing one of the students.

Adam Allen, the public defender for Youssef Megahed, said in a court motion filed Wednesday that the FBI determined the substance found inside two pipes confiscated from the students' car was "completely harmless if ignited."

The pyrotechnic mixture, according to the FBI report, was made up of sugar, potassium nitrate and cat litter. Potassium nitrate is a low-grade explosive also used as fertilizer.

Allen said the FBI replicated the pipes and substance found in the car and tried to blow it up.

"This scientifically controlled testing established that the PVC pipes found in the trunk of the defendants' vehicle would not explode when ignited but, instead, would likely either burn, smoke or do nothing at all," his motion said.

Those findings seem to support what Megahed, 21, and Ahmed Mohamed, 26, have said since they were arrested Aug. 4 by a deputy who stopped them for speeding near a South Carolina naval base. Both are Egyptian nationals who attended USF's engineering school.

Besides the PVC pipes, investigators said there also were bullets and a laptop computer in the vehicle, and Mohamed had allegedly posted a video on YouTube showing how to turn a toy remote-controlled car into a detonator.

Megahed and Mohamed are being held in the Hillsborough County jail without bail. Both are charged with transporting explosive materials. Mohamed also is charged with demonstrating how to make an explosive device.

Both pleaded not guilty and are set to go to trial as early as March.

In Wednesday's motion, which disclosed the contents of the Dec. 5 FBI report for the first time, Allen asked that Megahed be released based on the new evidence.

Allen also cited a portion of the FBI report showing that a GPS device in the car supports the students' assertions that they were simply on a road trip. The GPS showed they were following a route to Sunset Beach, N.C., which is what they told investigators.

Jan Wesner can be reached at jwesner@sptimes.com or 813 661-2439.