NEW YORK – A Bangladeshi immigrant who set off a pipe bomb in a Times Square-area subway station at rush hour was on a suicide mission to kill only himself, a defense lawyer told jurors in a closing argument on Monday, contesting claims by prosecutors that he’s a terrorist.
“He wanted to die. He wanted to take his own life and only his life,” attorney Amy Gallicchio said of Akayed Ullah, 28, of Brooklyn. “This is not a suicide bombing. This is not a terrorist attack.”
Gallicchio spoke after Assistant U.S. Attorney George Turner said Ullah sought “to inflict maximum damage, to terrorize Americans.”
Turner said Ullah purposely chose morning rush hour last Dec. 11 in the city’s busiest subway station to maximize casualties.
The failed pipe bombing occurred in a pathway linking the subway to the Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan. The subway is beneath the busy Times Square area where many trains are linked.
The bomb fizzled, burning Ullah but sparing nearby pedestrians from life-threatening injuries.
The prosecutor said Ullah followed the propaganda of the Islamic State group online and wanted to follow its instructions to carry out a “lone wolf” terror attack on Americans.
“His goal was to injure and kill innocent civilians, to terrorize,” Turner said.
The prosecutor said Ullah told an investigator after his arrest: “I did it for the Islamic State.”
Authorities say Ullah’s radicalization began in 2014 when he started viewing materials online.
Gallicchio agreed Ullah opposed the U.S. government’s policies toward Muslims and the Middle East. But she said he did not try to set off his pipe bomb when he was on crowded subway cars with hundreds of people.
Instead, she said, he waited until he was in a largely isolated corridor, where it was caught on a security video stream that was shown to jurors.
“It was a disturbing act by a disturbed man,” Gallicchio said. “This is not a lone-wolf attack.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Crowley countered Gallicchio’s argument by saying Ullah would not have chosen to use a bomb if he only intended to kill himself.
“It was about martyrdom, not suicide,” she said.
“This is not a close case. You know what happened. The defendant carried out a terrorist attack for ISIS,” Crowley said, using the acronym the government sometimes uses to refer to the Islamic State group.
If convicted, Ullah could face life in prison.
Authorities have said Ullah taunted President Donald Trump on Facebook before the attack. The Republican president later demanded tightened immigration rules.