Student may get two trials

Two Egyptians will be tried together on an explosive charge.

By Kevin Graham, Times Staff Writer
Published March 6, 2008

TAMPA - A federal judge is considering a separate trial for Ahmed Mohamed on a charge that he demonstrated on YouTube how to make an explosive device with a child's toy.

An Aug. 29 federal indictment charged Mohamed, 26, and Youssef Megahed, 21, with illegally transporting explosive materials. The same indictment charged Mohamed with one count of demonstrating how to make an explosive.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Adam Allen, Megahed's attorney, said Wednesday in court that Megahed knew nothing about the video, so allowing testimony about it during a trial with Mohamed, a fellow suspended University of South Florida student, would prejudice Megahed's case.

Allen had previously filed a motion for separate trials. U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday denied that request in November. Allen appealed the judge's ruling, and Merryday held a hearing Wednesday to listen to Allen's arguments.

Merryday said Megahed and Mohamed are properly joined in the indictment on the charge for illegally transporting explosives, and he supports his ruling that they are to stand trial together on that allegation.

Also at the hearing, Allen asked Merryday again to release Megahed on bail. Allen said in court records filed Jan. 30 that an FBI analysis found that PVC pipes carried by Megahed and Mohamed at the time of their Aug. 4 arrest in Goose Creek, S.C., were harmless fireworks, not explosives.

Merryday said he will review the FBI report to determine whether the compounds carried in the trunk by Megahed and Mohamed posed a threat, or enough of a threat, to keep Megahed jailed until trial.

The judge also acknowledged a defense request for a jury questionnaire to which he has yet to respond.

Merryday said he would issue rulings on the three matters - a separate trial for Mohamed on the demonstration charge, granting bail for Megahed and allowing a jury questionnaire - within 48 hours.

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