Fireworks Kid Not Guilty By Reason of Being a Walmart Junkie

The Tampa Tribune is trying to marginalize the case of the Fireworks Kids, Youssef Megahed and Ahmed Mohamed. Summary of the story, is that the government has not revealed the path the two took before ending up in Goose Creek, despite the fact that the have the GPS used by them.

Well, sorry, it does not matter what the path was that was taken, they are being charged with transporting explosives across statelines and diseminating information on bomb making techniques. Nothing to do the the path traveled. They could have driven to Maine and back, it does not change whether or not they were doing what they were charged with. The only thing that determining their path may provided, is that they may have been up to more than they claim, and additional charges could result.

We have one of the actors, possibly tied to terrorist activity in Egypt, pipe bombs in the car, bullets in the car, and suspicous activity. Then on top of this, possible ties to convicted terrorists.

Retracing Trip Key To Men’s Fate 

As the federal case against two University of South Florida students moves forward in Tampa, the government is expected to reveal more of what investigators think the pair was up to on a Friday night in early August.

Was it a spur-of-the-moment road trip to a North Carolina beach? Or was it an ill-willed plan that took them into a community near a Naval weapons station that holds stockpiles of arms and a brig with an enemy combatant?

A GPS device and cell phones taken from their car may hold the key to what the public doesn’t yet know about the journey of Youssef Megahed, 21, and Ahmed Mohamed, 24, that ended on a highway here in Berkeley County, where they were pulled over for speeding.

Why were they on a highway – 40 miles east of Interstate 95 – that is an east-west route, doesn’t head toward North Carolina and has no clear end point except the Naval Weapons Station Charleston?

Federal investigators haven’t yet laid out what they think were the students’ intentions, or the route they took. Prosecutors charged both with transporting explosives after they found pipe bombs in the car, and additionally charged Mohamed with trying to spread information about how to make bombs.

Megahed has told his attorney, Charleston lawyer Andy Savage, that they took a side trip onto U.S. 176 to go to the Wal-Mart in Goose Creek, where they bought cheap gas at the adjoining Murphy USA station. They then resumed their road trip, getting on U.S. 176 and heading west.

Savage pointed to an oversized map in his office as he showed that they were headed west from the Wal-Mart – after their gas purchase – when they were pulled over by a Berkeley County sheriff’s deputy.

Savages is certain they purchased gas at the Walmart in Goose Creek, however no proof has been provided other than the word of one of the actors. There is no record. Savage, how about video survallance, how about gas station records of gas being sold near the time that the actors were there. And even if they were getting gas, how does that exonorate them from the charges they face.

In an interview, however, Deputy Lamar Blakely revealed that he followed them starting at least two-tenths of a mile before they reached the Wal-Mart. As he followed them in his cruiser, clocking them with radar, they passed the Wal-Mart, he said.

They may already have bought gas, headed east, made a U-turn and headed back west – then were spotted by Blakely. Savage doesn’t know for sure. All he knows is what his client has told him he’s certain of – that the two purchased gas at that Murphy station.

There’s no financial record of a gas purchase at the station, however, Savage said. Megahed told him they bought the gas with a Wal-Mart gift card. They didn’t use Megahed’s debit card, which they had used for much of the trip.

To get the 3 cents-per-gallon discount at Murphy USA, customers must use gift cards purchased inside a Wal-Mart or a Wal-Mart credit card.

Receipts Document Journey

Because the students didn’t know the roads well, Megahed isn’t able to clearly lay out their route, Savage said. Megahed doesn’t know what road they were headed toward when they got back onto U.S. 176, the lawyer said.

Mohamed was driving at the time. His attorney, Charleston lawyer Lionel Lofton, says he hasn’t talked to Mohamed about their route or how they ended up in Goose Creek.

The two students took turns driving the Toyota Camry that belongs to a relative of Megahed. To help them navigate, they stopped along the way and bought a portable GPS device at a Wal-Mart in Ocala, Savage said.

That purchase, $307 total, shows up on a bank statement from Megahed’s debit card that Savage has collected as part of his defense case.

Wow he has two theories, I guess he must have put a lot of time into this one. It still has nothing to do with the case at hand. Anyone can look at a map and determine what the possible paths are. The question is why were they taking that path. I like the scenic route scenario as it was the middle of the night, I doubt there is too much scenary to see… 

As they headed north, they stopped at a Jacksonville Wal-Mart, too, and made two purchases of $70 and $10.62. Then, they stopped at a Burger King in Walterboro, S.C., about 40 miles south of Charleston.

Savage keeps coming back to that Burger King stop, as he tries to piece together what happened next.

He has two theories.

They may have headed up I-95, sidetracked down Interstate 26 and gotten on U.S. 176, where they were pulled over. Or they headed north on Highway 17, a more scenic route that waves through beach towns and also is known as Coastal Highway, before they hooked west onto Interstate 526, near Charleston, and then onto U.S. 176.

If they took that route, they would have passed right by the Naval Weapons Station.

Wow, Walmart Junkie Defense. That is definitely a new one for the books. The fact of the matter is they had pipebombs and bullets in their car, in the middle of the night after crossing state borders, near a major military complex target.

Devoted Wal-Mart Customer

Somehow, they wound up on U.S. 176 in Goose Creek, seven miles from the weapons station, where more than 40 percent of the Army’s and 60 percent of the Marines’ weapons, tanks, Humvees and helicopters are moved through before they’re transported overseas.

Megahed told Savage that they were punching “Murphy’s gas” into the GPS as they drove, to get directions to the discount gas stations.

The bank statement shows a string of more than a dozen Wal-Mart purchases – bearing out Savage’s contention that Megahed was a loyal customer of Wal-Mart and would drive out of his way to shop there, to save money on gas and whatever else he was buying.

“He’s a Wal-Mart freak. That’s what his family tells me,” Savage said.

The statement also shows Megahed made two purchases, of $21.39 and $13.88, at a Harbor Freight hardware store in Tampa before the trip. Savage said he doesn’t know what the purchase was. The balance in the account fluctuated between about $1,000 and $3,000.

Here is the best part, in terms of the charges they are facing, their intentions do not matter. The government knows exactly where they were, route 176, 7 miles for a major military complex, with pipebombs and bullets. If fereral prosecutors reveal what they found on the GPS it does nothing for the defense against the charges they face.

If federal prosecutors reveal what they found on the GPS device, everyone will know for sure where Megahed and Mohamed were – and maybe where they intended to go, if they punched in their true destinations, Savage said.

“The government knows. The government knows exactly where they were,” he said.

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