A retired FBI agent says the agency was too slow to investigate Antonio Martinez, who is accused of trying to blow up a military recruiting center in Maryland, and showed a "reckless disregard" for evidence collection by failing to record several meetings between Martinez and an informant.
"The inattention and the delayed response by the FBI to conduct investigation … is not commensurate with generally accepted reasonable FBI investigative practices," James J. Wedick, a 34-year bureau veteran, wrote in a 13-page report, calling the case a "serious departure from the FBI's authorized mandate to respond quickly to threats, particularly crimes of violence and threats to national security."
The document was filed in court by Martinez's attorney, who plans to argue at trial that his client, a 22-year-old who considered himself a Muslim holy warrior, was entrapped by investigators, who supplied the inert vehicle bomb that Martinez attempted to detonate in December.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Manuelian has asked that Wedick's assertions be barred, however, describing them in court filings as irrelevant, unreliable and largely made up of "pure conjecture" based on "attempts at clairvoyance."
A lengthy hearing was held Wednesday — and is to be continued later this month — to discuss the FBI's approach. Defense lawyers have asked a federal district judge to dismiss the indictment, which charges Martinez with attempted murder of a federal official using a weapon of mass destruction, and to suppress most evidence, including Martinez's confession.
To fight back, prosecutors have released nearly 70 pages of FBI material, including communications between Special Agent Joseph Galietta, the case agent who set the pace in the investigation, and a "confidential human source."
The documents appear to show a laid-back initial approach toward Martinez, despite the man's alleged claims on Facebook, as told by the informant, that he hates "with all [his] heart" those who oppose Allah; predicted a "sword is cummin the reign of oppression is about 2 cease;" and had outlined a wish to go to Pakistan or Afghanistan to fight.
On the witness stand Wednesday, Galietta said he believed that the claims were "aspirational" and "nothing more" and that they were "similar to many statements I've seen from other individuals."
When asked how frequently he comes across such claims, he replied "all the time."
The FBI first became aware of Martinez, who lived at addresses in Gwynn Oak and Windsor Mill, on Oct. 8, 2010, when a regular informant who had worked with the agency on other investigations met with Galietta and described the Facebook postings, which he came across while investigating another matter.
The informant said he recognized Martinez, who used the name Muhammad Hussain online, from a local mosque and had met him in August during Ramadan.
"You have the green light to speak with him," Galietta wrote in an email to the informant. "We don't yet have enough to open an investigation. But we're always on the lookout for activity."
The source replied, "Got it. I believe something will come out of him."
Over the next few days, the source met with Martinez, exchanged emails with him and chatted online.
"My dream is to be amongst the ranks of the mujahideen," Martinez allegedly wrote in one digital conversation. "Jihad [holy war] is all I think about when i sleep, when I wake up, sometimes i cry cuz im not there and kaffur [nonbelievers] killing all our brothers and sisters."
On Oct. 22, he would tell the informant that he wanted to "kill them as they killing muslim around the world," according to an FBI email. But Galietta said the statement did not overly concern him because he didn't believe that Martinez "had the ability" to follow through.
Five days later, after learning that Martinez was saving money to "equip" himself for jihad, had identified military recruiting centers as targets and talked of plans to "start slaughtering," Galietta sought permission to begin an investigation, though he still believed there was no imminent threat.
Two more meetings would occur between Martinez and the source before the agency started recording the conversations on Oct. 30. More than 70 recordings eventually were made, including on Dec. 8, when Martinez was arrested after trying to detonate a car bomb at a Catonsville military recruiting center.
Deputy federal public defender Joseph Balter, who represents Martinez, said in court filings that the failure to record some meetings represented an unconstitutional effort by the FBI to deprive his client of "essential and potentially exculpatory evidence."
He turned to Wedick, who retired in 2004, for a professional opinion. The former FBI agent was scheduled to take the stand Friday afternoon but the court ran out of time, and he will be called back Nov. 18. His report faults the FBI for not taking action more quickly.
Prosecutors scoffed at the conclusions in court filings.
"Having failed to come forward with anything that suggests, let alone establishes, bad faith on the part of the FBI in the instant case, the defense attempts to trot out a former, long-retired, white collar agent with no experience in terrorism investigations to 'interpret' internal FBI and [Department of Justice] guidelines that are neither constitutionally nor statutorily required," they wrote.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun