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Originally published Monday, July 16, 2012 at 8:51 PM

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Defense challenges informant's credibility in terror-plot case

Defense attorneys are challenging the credibility of a key witness against a man accused of planning an attack on a Seattle military recruiting and processing center.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Defense attorneys for a man federal prosecutors say planned to attack a military-processing station in Seattle with automatic rifles and grenades have challenged the credibility of a convicted sex offender who, as a paid informant, is central to the government's case.

Attorneys for Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, 35, filed motions this week alleging that the unidentified informant admitted that he destroyed unauthorized recordings between himself and Abdul-Latif that were on his cellphone because he was trying to hide the fact that he had been sending sexually explicit messages, in violation of his supervision as a level 3 sex offender.

The informant is key to the pending October trial of Abdul-Latif and, according to the defense motion, was introduced to agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) by another informant who had been used by a Seattle police detective assigned to the task force.

Despite warnings not to do so without authorization, the informant said he recorded initial meetings with Abdul-Latif but then later destroyed the recordings when he cleared his phone of the allegedly incriminating sex messages before turning his phone over to the FBI as part of his agreement.

The documents say the informant has been paid $90,000 so far. Abdul-Latif's lawyers say they are planning a defense based on entrapment and their client's mental conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome, which they say made him particularly vulnerable to suggestions and inducement.

"The (informant's) testimony concerning how the plot unfolded and the inducements offered Mr. Abdul-Latif to participate in the contrived conspiracy will be indispensable and critical to the jury's determination of whether Mr. Abdul-Latif was entrapped to commit the crimes," wrote federal public defender Jennifer Wellman. The informant's decision to reset his phone to cover up his own potentially criminal conduct reflects on his credibility, Wellman argued, and the destruction of the recorded conversations with Abdul-Latif amounts to the destruction of evidence that could have played in Abdul-Latif's favor.

"The destruction and loss of this evidence impairs the fairness of the trial," she wrote.

Prosecutors allege Abdul-Latif is a felon and "self-radicalized" Muslim who recruited another man from Los Angeles, Walli Mujahidh, 34, to attack the military-processing station on East Marginal Way South on July 5, 2011. They were arrested a couple of weeks before that after the informant led them to a warehouse where they were to obtain the weapons to be used in the attack.

Mujahidh, also known as Frederick Domingue, has a long history of mental illness. He already has pleaded guilty and will be used as a witness against Abdul-Latif. Prosecutors have promised to ask for a sentence of 27 to 32 years in exchange for his cooperation.

Abdul-Latif faces six counts, including conspiracy to murder employees of the U.S. government, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (a grenade) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of an act of violence. Those crimes carry life sentences, and the firearms charge includes a mandatory-minimum 30-year sentence that must be served apart from any other prison time.

Abdul-Latif appeared alongside his attorneys Monday during a brief hearing in which U.S. District Judge James Robart said he may be inclined to grant a trial-date extension because of defense delays in providing discovery materials to prosecutors.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

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