WICHITA, Kan. – An FBI agent who befriended a man now accused of plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Wichita airport radicalized him and induced him to commit the crime, defense attorneys argued Monday.
Terry Loewen, a former avionics technician, was arrested in December 2013 when he allegedly tried in to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at Mid-Continent Airport. His arrest capped a sting operation in which undercover FBI agents posed as co-conspirators.
Loewen has pleaded not guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use an explosive device to damage property and attempting to give material support to al-Qaida.
Defense attorneys contended in a court filing Monday that the evidence of government entrapment is so strong that the indictment should be thrown out even before the case goes to a jury. They argued Loewen had no predisposition to commit the crime when the government began its investigation in June 2013.
Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas, said prosecutors will review the defense filings and respond to the court.
Court documents detail Loewen's alleged conversations with undercover FBI agents. The discussions began with vague sentiments about his desire to commit "violent jihad" against the U.S. before turning into a detailed, concrete plot in which agents recruited him to use his airport access to plant a bomb in a martyrdom operation.
The defense noted that Loewen told the first undercover agent that he was the only person with whom he had had any contact with about jihad. Loewen also told the undercover agents he knew nothing about explosives.
Defense attorneys also argued that the indictment should be dismissed due to violations of Loewen's First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, religion and association.
In a separate filing, his attorneys asked the court to suppress any evidence seized from his vehicle on the day of his arrest, because they say the search warrant wasn't good for that day.
In a third filing, Loewen's attorneys argued that because the explosives were inert and the bomb would not explode, the weapon did not meet the legal definition of a "destructive device." They asked the court to dismiss the counts related to the attempted use of weapon of mass destruction and attempted use of explosive device.