CAMDEN, N.J. – Prosecutors quickly turned to video evidence Tuesday as testimony began in the trial of five men accused of plotting to attack soldiers on New Jersey's Fort Dix.
The first video shown to jurors was from hidden cameras placed by the FBI inside the Cherry Hill apartment of informant Mahmoud Omar. An investigator also testified that the agency used the apartment next door for surveillance.
Brothers Dritan and Shain Duka didn't know about the bugs on May 7, 2007. Still, they appeared nervous when they came to Omar's apartment that day, allegedly to buy four machine guns and three assault rifles.
In a video shown by prosecutors — the first of perhaps 100 recordings the jury is expected to view during the trial — Dritan Duka asks Omar to close the blinds.
"Just in case," he is heard explaining. "You never know."
The video shows the two brothers handling AK-47s and M-16s, discussing how to get them out of Omar's apartment and fretting about some sirens in the background.
Seconds later, they were arrested.
The screen goes black and the voices of SWAT team agents can be heard yelling repeatedly, "Get down" as they moved in to arrest the men.
By the next day, the case of alleged terrorism plotters homegrown in the suburbs of Philadelphia was a huge story.
The five men — all foreign-born Muslims in their 20s — are charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to murder military personnel and weapons offenses. All of them could face life in prison if they're convicted on the most serious charges.
Their defense lawyers argue that the only plot to attack Fort Dix was between only Omar and one of the suspects.
They say the government is making innocent moments seem ominous.
For instance, the first witness to take the stand was Col. Ronal Thaxton, the commander on Fort Dix.
He was called to testify by prosecutors to outline basic facts, such as the size of the installation (30,000 acres), that it is currently training troops for deployments to Iraq, and that the guards at the main gate to the base are armed with 9 mm pistols.
But defense lawyers used his testimony to try and show that there was no sophisticated plot to attack the base and that the government has made innocent activities seem dangerous.
Prosecutors say one of the suspects provided a map of the base, and that another did surveillance on the installation by driving by it.
But under cross examination, Thaxton said that civilians can be on base to golf, play or watch soccer, go to a museum or even a municipal court to contest traffic tickets. He also acknowledged that maps of the area are available online, but said those maps are not particularly detailed.