Mohamed Osman Mohamud once called for jihad against the West and said the attacks of Sept. 11 were "awesome." The bomb he hoped would kill thousands, he said, was "beautiful."
Now, he's begging for mercy. "My heart is filled with remorse, shame, sorrow, pain and misery every time I think about my actions on that day," Mohamud wrote in a letter filed in federal court in Oregon and addressed to the judge who will sentence him.
"That day" Mohamud is referring to is Nov. 26, 2010, when he planned to set off a bomb at the crowded annual Christmas tree-lighting in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square.
But the 1,800-pound bomb that Mohamud tried to detonate remotely through a cellphone was fake, designed by federal investigators to resemble an actual explosive. The men Mohamud thought were al-Qaida operatives were undercover officers.
In January, a jury convicted Mohamud, 22, of attempting to set off a weapon of mass destruction. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison. Prosecutors are requesting a sentence of 40 years, according to court documents. Defense attorneys are asking for 10 years in prison.
The fate of the Somali American from Beaverton is in the hands of U.S. District Judge Garr M. King. Prosecutors are seeking a delay to the Sept. 6 sentencing date. "I can't change what happened," Mohamud said as part of his apology in the undated letter, handwritten on loose-leaf paper and addressed directly to King. "All I can do is try to make myself a better person and give back wherever I can."
Defense attorneys say their client deserves a sentence closer to the minimum mandated by federal law, citing two psychiatric evaluations asserting that Mohamud poses no danger to society and has disavowed radical and violent interpretations of Islam, according to court documents.
But prosecutors, arguing for a longer sentence, have dismissed accusations made by the defense that government investigators entrapped Mohamud.
Mohamud "methodically and resolutely plotted to murder thousands of innocent people in the name of Islamic extremism," prosecutors wrote, disagreeing that impulsiveness or substance abuse played a part.