WICHITA, Kan. – It cannot be determined without a trial whether the government's conduct in an undercover operation was so outrageous that it induced a man into plotting a suicide bomb attack at a Kansas airport, a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot rejected the defense team's entrapment argument and a plethora of other legal moves that sought to have the federal indictment against Terry Loewen thrown out.
The former avionics technician was arrested in December 2013 after authorities said he tried to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita. Loewen was arrested after a sting operation in which undercover FBI agents posing as co-conspirators gave him fake explosives.
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.
Friday's sweeping decision rejected numerous pending defense motions, siding squarely with prosecutors on each issue.
Defense attorneys had contended that the evidence of government entrapment was so strong, the indictment should be thrown out even before the case goes to trial, which has yet to be scheduled. They argued Loewen had no predisposition to commit the crime when the government began its investigation in June 2013.
But prosecutors countered that Loewen was "well on his way" to becoming a violent terrorist before authorities began investigating him.
Belot said claims of entrapment are tied to the merits of the case and cannot be determined in a pretrial motion. He made a similar finding on defense claims that the government's conduct was outrageous.
Belot also was not swayed by the defense argument that some counts should be dismissed because the bomb would not explode and therefore didn't meet the legal definition of a "destructive device." The judge agreed with the government that because he is charged only with attempting to commit the crime, what matters are Loewen's intent and actions taken toward that objective.
Defense attorneys had no luck with their motion that evidence seized from Loewen's vehicle on the day of his arrest should be thrown out because the search warrant wasn't good for that specific day.
Prosecutors had argued that the government presented five different search warrants, and it was a "simple clerical error" when the judge mistakenly put the date she signed the warrant in place of the date when the warrant was to be executed.
The judge agreed, finding officers did not act in flagrant disregard of the warrant when they searched the vehicle.