CAMDEN, N.J. – For 25 days, government prosecutors called witnesses to lay out their case that five men were planning to kill soldiers on New Jersey's Fort Dix, or another U.S. military installation.
On Wednesday, defense lawyers called just two witnesses, then rested, putting an end to testimony in a case that prosecutors say could have been one of the most devastating examples of homegrown terrorism in the United States.
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler said he would instruct jurors on the legal issues Thursday afternoon.
Lawyers are to begin their closing arguments Monday; deliberations begin Tuesday. In an unusual move, Kugler said the jury would be sequestered during deliberations.
The government relied heavily on two paid informants — both entered the country illegally and have prior criminal convictions — to build the case against Mohamad Shnewer, Serdar Tatar and the brothers Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka.
All five defendants are charged with conspiracy to kill military personnel and attempted murder. Four of them face weapons offenses.
The men — all foreign-born Muslims who lived for years in the comfortable Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill — face life in prison if they're convicted on the most serious charges.
Their lawyers acknowledge that the men were interested in guns and at times spoke ill of America, but say that they were not seriously planning anything.
Rather, they argue, the informants tried to push their clients toward a plot.
And rather than call their own witnesses, defense attorneys chiefly made their case by tearing apart the government's. Of the 25 days of testimony, defense attorneys used 11 on cross-examination.
Their main witness was a computer scientist, who testified it cannot be determined from computer records whether one of the suspects zoomed in on an Internet map of the Army post in September 2006. The government called an FBI computer expert Wednesday who disagreed with that assessment.