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Abdo guilty in foiled bomb plot against Fort Hood soldiers

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TWC News: Abdo guilty in foiled bomb plot against Fort Hood soldiers
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It took only about an hour for 12 jurors to unanimously find Naser Jason Abdo guilty on all six counts. Abdo is the AWOL soldier arrested last July for planning to bomb an unidentified Chinese restaurant in Killeen filled with Fort Hood soldiers.

Abdo sat with no visible reaction as a guilty verdict was read for each of the six counts. In previous hearings Abdo has had outbursts in court, including his first hearing where he yelled out the name of Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood soldier who stands accused of going on a shooting rampage on post on Nov. 5, 2009. The shooting left 13 people dead and more than 30 injured.

Over the last two and a half days, jurors heard testimony from more than two dozen witnesses. During closing arguments, the prosecution reviewed for the jurors some of the evidence that they have seen and heard. The evidence presented in court included video and audio recordings.

One of those recordings was made in a Killeen Police Department patrol car. In it, Abdo can be heard talking to KPD Sgt. Eric Bradley immediately following his arrest.

During their conversation, Abdo eventually tells the sergeant that he was planning an attack at Fort Hood in Killeen because he “did not appreciate what my unit did in Afghanistan.”

Other recordings played for jurors included a phone call he made from jail to a television reporter in Tennessee. As part of that interview he can be heard saying that his initial operation was to kill a high ranking Fort Campbell official who was with his unit and took part in the mission in Afghanistan. However he told the reporter that he left Fort Campbell after he felt his chain of command was onto his plan, therefore his 'priorities had to change'.

Abdo eventually ended up in Killeen, and he was heard on the recording telling the reporter that he wanted to remind people of the similarities of what Nidal Hasan intended to do.

The final recorded conversation played in court was with his mother who visited him in jail. In that conversation, his mother attempts numerous times to try and understand why her son did what he did. To which he replies “the reason is religion mom.”

Abdo had applied for and was approved for conscientious objector status to leave the Army, based on his faith as a Muslim. However, child pornography charges brought against him prevented him from getting out.

According to prosecutors, those recordings played a big role in the case.

"We were all confident that his words spoke for themselves, and showed his intent and there would be no issue," Larry Schneider with the Justice Department's Counterterrorism Section said.

The prosecution has contended all along that Abdo was within hours of successfully constructing a bomb which he planned to put into a cardboard box and place inside of a restaurant during the lunch hour. During the trial it was also revealed by one of the witnesses, that Abdo had plans to wait outside the restaurant and shoot surviving soldiers.

Since Abdo was arrested before anything was carried out, the defense has argued that the prosecution could not prove that an attempt was made. During opening and closing statements, defense attorney Zachary Boyd used the analogy of an attempted suicide by knife. He told jurors that according to the prosecution's argument, the attempted suicide begins when someone purchases a knife.

Boyd has argued that everything that Abdo had in his possession in his backpack and his hotel room at the time of his arrest were all legally purchased items.

Before the prosecution rested its case, jurors had a chance to see what type of damage would have been caused by a bomb like the one Abdo was accused of trying to create.

An FBI explosives expert Richard Stryker was the last witness to take the stand for the prosecution. He built a bomb using instructions from the article, 'How to build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom," which is the same article Abdo had in his possession at the time of his arrest.

Stryker testified that he purchased the same materials seized as evidence from Abdo, and followed the instructions to successfully construct a destructive device. Jurors watched the video as they detonated the destructive device inside of an abandoned building complete with a room set up like a restaurant.

When the device was detonated, jurors could see a large fire ball shoot up, which he said could have caused injuries. While the pressure cooker remained intact, the lid of the pressure cooker was pushed up and took a chunk out of the ceiling.

Stryker said that the instructions from the article were sufficient to create a destructive device, and that Abdo had all of the components to readily construct the device. The defense questioned whether somebody like Abdo, who was not an expert in explosives, could successfully create a device. The defense even called into question how Stryker constructed the device, since some like items instead of the exact items seized from Abdo were used.

"You used your expertise to create the biggest pyrotechnic display to show this jury," Boyd said.

In the end, the jury made up of seven women and five men found Abdo guilty on all six counts, which includes the attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and attempted murder of officers or employees of the U.S., among other charges.

Prosecutor Mark Frazier said they were pleased with the jury's decision.

"Citizens there in Killeen area around Fort Hood, understood the gravity the magnitude this situation presented so I think they would probably likewise be pleased with the result," he said.

Abdo's arrest came after Killeen police were tipped off by a clerk at Guns Galore in Killeen. Clerk Greg Ebert testified Wednesday, that he decided to call police because of concerns he had with the suspicious behavior of a customer. That man, later identified as Abdo, wore his sunglasses the whole time he was in the store, and had to ask what smokeless gun powder was while purchasing six pounds of it.

"Disaster was avoided here, and it was avoided because the citizenry made a couple telephone calls, and the police did a great job," Prosecutor Gregg Sofer said. "Had they not done that this would not have been an attempt case at all."

Sentencing is scheduled for July 20.

The first count alone, attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction carries the possible penalty of life in prison.

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