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Accused Chelsea Bomber Had 'Evil In His Heart,' Prosecutors Say

By Maya Rajamani | October 13, 2017 9:19am
 Surveillance footage captured the moment a bomb exploded on West 23rd Street in Chelsea.
Surveillance footage captured the moment a bomb exploded on West 23rd Street in Chelsea.
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U.S. Department of Justice

MANHATTAN FEDERAL COURT — The accused Chelsea bomber had “evil in his heart” and aimed to “maximize the devastation” when he planted explosive devices in Chelsea and New Jersey last year, prosecutors said during closing arguments at his trial Thursday.

Ahmad Khan Rahimi faces eight charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use and destroying property by means of fire or explosive.

Hours after testimony wrapped up on the seventh day of Rahimi's trial Thursday, government attorney Emil Bove asked jurors to consider the evidence they’d been presented with over the past two weeks.

“Who did these things? How? And why?” Bove asked, before pivoting away from the jury box toward Rahimi, who sat at a table next to his attorneys.

“This man did these things — the defendant, Ahmad Khan Rahimi,” said Bove, standing directly behind Rahimi and pointing at him. 

Rahimi’s defense attorney, Sabrina Shroff, placed a hand on the defendant's shoulder as the prosecutor spoke.

“He carried out his attack in a cold, calculated way, with evil in his heart,” Bove said.

After returning to the front of the jury box, Bove asked jurors to recall evidence they’d seen over the course of the trial, including dozens of surveillance videos that showed Rahimi purchasing items he allegedly used to make the pressure-cooker bombs and subsequently transporting them to the sites at which they were planted.

A total of 45 surveillance videos from Sept. 17 show Rahimi carrying and rolling bags containing the bombs, including footage from Penn Station and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, Bove said.

“He knew that he built deadly devices — he intended to kill people with these devices,” said the prosecutor, adding that Rahimi aimed to “maximize the devastation.”

Rahimi chose vulnerable victims — like residents of Selis Manor on West 23rd Street — when he planned his attacks, Bove added.

Earlier on Thursday, jurors heard from the government’s final witness — a registered nurse named Tsitsi Merritt, who said she was traveling down West 23rd Street by car with her now-11-year-old son and a friend when the explosion happened.

“It was… like an earthquake,” she recalled. “We heard people… screaming and we were not sure what it was.”

When she turned to check on her son in the back seat of the car, she realized a back window had “shattered onto him” during the blast and that her son wasn’t able to respond when she tried to speak to him.

As prosecutors played a video showing the car Merritt and her son were riding in come to a halt as the bomb went off, she momentarily broke down in tears on the stand before continuing to testify. 

Following the blast, Merritt ran into a restaurant to ask for help, but “it seemed like no one could understand me,” she recalled.

She and her son were eventually taken to the hospital, where she was treated for ringing in her ears and “issues with her head,” she testified.

Merritt didn’t provide details about her son’s condition, but said they both went for counseling after the incident.  

Shroff on Thursday said Rahimi would not be testifying on his own behalf. His attorneys are slated to make their closing arguments on Friday morning.