AMARILLO, Texas – Defense attorneys presented no evidence and called no witnesses before resting Tuesday in the federal trial of a Saudi man accused of gathering materials to make a bomb.
The stunning move came after prosecutors rested their case against Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday morning in Amarillo.
Aldawsari, a former Texas Tech chemical engineering student, is charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Prosecutors accused him of having a list of potential targets, including former President George W. Bush's home in Dallas. The 22-year-old defendant could be sentenced to up to life in prison and fined up to $250,000 if convicted.
During an FBI agent's testimony Tuesday, authorities showed videos they said they found on a flash drive in Aldawsari's apartment. One showed a masked man speaking in Arabic about the chemicals needed to create picric acid, an explosive. Other agents have testified that Aldawsari sought -- and failed -- to obtain one of the three chemicals, phenol.
"Following these steps, you would get picric acid," said Robert Mothershead, an FBI forensic examiner, in describing the video.
Authorities also shared some of Aldawsari's alleged writings. They said he kept the recipe for picric acid in several emails and journal entries. In one entry, Aldawsari said he was close to obtaining phenol and had gotten other necessary items, "so I may use them in missions to please God."
Federal agents secretly searched Aldawsari's apartment in Lubbock twice last year and say they found almost everything needed to build a bomb, including chemicals, beakers, flasks, wiring, a hazmat suit and clocks, which he had bought online.
Agents say they also uncovered handwritten journals, recordings and online postings suggesting Aldawsari had long planned to launch an attack in the U.S. and that potential targets included dams, nuclear plants and Bush's Dallas home.
His attorneys argue Aldawsari never came close to threatening anyone.
Defense attorney Dan Cogdell, in his opening statement Friday, said Aldawsari never took the "substantial step" necessary for the court to find him guilty.
"Was he a lone wolf or was he a loser alone?" Cogdell asked. "I think the evidence will show he was a loser alone who failed."
Authorities say they were tipped to Aldawsari's online purchases by chemical company Carolina Biological Supply of Burlington, North Carolina, and shipping company Con-way Freight on Feb. 1, 2011. The chemical company reported a suspicious $435 purchase to the FBI, and the shipping company notified Lubbock police and the FBI because it appeared the order wasn't intended for commercial use.
Prosecutors have previously played recordings of a frustrated Aldawsari complaining to the supply company when his order was held up.
Court documents say Aldawsari wrote in Arabic in his journal that he had been planning a terror attack in the U.S. even before he came to the country on a scholarship, and that it was "time for jihad," or holy war. He bemoaned the plight of Muslims and said he was influenced by Osama bin Laden's speeches.
FBI bomb experts have said they believe Aldawsari had sufficient components to produce almost 15 pounds of explosive -- about the same amount used per bomb in the London subway attacks that killed scores of people in July 2005.