A federal judge in Virginia has briefly delayed the trial for a former Metro Transit police officer accused of supporting the Islamic State, partly over concerns about publicity surrounding the case.
Nicholas Young spoke to The Washington Post about the allegations in an article that ran in Sunday’s paper, saying he is being unfairly painted by authorities as a supporter of both the Islamic State and neo-Nazism.
The Alexandria, Va., native, who is charged with attempted material support for terrorism, is accused of buying mobile messaging cards he believed would be used by terrorists. The person he purchased them for was an FBI informant.
The defense plans to argue Young was entrapped.
Because of Young’s interview in The Post, as well as disputes over documents, U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema on Tuesday said jury selection would not begin as planned that day and instead the trial would start on Dec. 11.
“The defendant has not had time to review” material handed over by the government in the days before trial, defense attorney Nicholas Smith said in court Tuesday.
Brinkema said she had looked over all the classified papers released by prosecutors in recent days and had seen nothing relevant.
“There’s nothing there,” Brinkema said, but internal discussions and conversations about other investigations.
But Smith argued that a particular issue of whether Young’s first mention of the Islamic State was recorded or not was important to the defense.
Brinkema agreed to give Young’s lawyers a little more time. She said she was also “concerned” the Post article might “taint the jury pool” this week.
Prosecutors pushed against the delay, saying they have witnesses who might be difficult to bring into court in the future. The judge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg argued, could have asked “the jurors if they can put the paper out of mind.”
The trial is expected to last one to two weeks. A separate hearing will be held Friday, in part to determine what evidence related to Young’s interest in Nazis will be allowed in court. Prosecutors have argued there is a nexus between radical Islam and white-supremacist beliefs.
After a jury is seated, Brinkema told the lawyers, she will instruct them that any evidence of “anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views” as well as “possession of white supremacist and Nazi materials” will be presented only to show Young’s alleged predisposition to support terrorism.
“He is not being prosecuted for those beliefs,” she said.