NEW YORK — The suspect in a high-profile bombing case says federal law enforcement officers improperly questioned him and obtained a hair sample under cloudy circumstances, according to court records obtained by CNN.
In an affidavit filed Friday in federal court in Manhattan, the suspect in the September 2016 bombing in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood outlines his encounters with FBI agents and other law enforcement, beginning with his arrest in Linden, New Jersey.
Ahmad Khan Rahimi is charged with eight federal counts, including bombing a place of public use and destroying property by means of fire or explosive after a pressure cooker exploded in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Rahimi has pleaded not guilty to those charges, as well as state charges in New Jersey related to explosives in Seaside Park and his confrontation with police a few days later.
The hospital room interviews and a visit from an FBI agent to him in jail to collect DNA evidence discussed in the affidavit were illegally conducted, the defense argues in an adjoining motion requesting the court dismiss the evidence.
‘I felt scared and anxious’
Rahimi says that early in the morning on September 19, he was sleeping in the doorway of a business in Linden, New Jersey.
“I was awoken and subsequently shot by police officers in the back and other areas of my body, and I recall dropping to the ground,” the affidavit reads.
Rahimi says that he was then handcuffed by police and that he was in “excruciating” pain. He says that his next memories are in the hospital, where he claims FBI agents visited him frequently for interviews without an attorney present and without telling him he was under arrest or reading him his Miranda rights.
“If I had been in my right mind and understood what was happening when the agents were in my room, I would not have spoken to them without an attorney,” the affidavit reads.
He also recalls that officers questioned him specifically about his family members.
“When the Agents questioned me, I felt scared and anxious,” the affidavit reads.
Rahimi alludes multiple times to his serious medical condition during his month-long stay in the hospital. He claims that he had periods where he could not speak due to having a breathing tube, as well as episodes in which he would “black out.” He also says that because he had “no peripheral vision” and that “everything was blurry,” he could not recognize the officers who interviewed him.
“I have no recollection as to how I answered their questions,” he said.
The federal government has not filed documents in response to Rahimi’s motion or affidavit.
CNN reached out Friday evening to the FBI and federal prosecutors for comment.
The defense included FBI records in its motion that indicate officers interviewed Rahimi four times in the hospital. At one point, according to both Rahimi’s affadvait and the FBI records, Rahimi was shown a sheet of paper with the alphabet with which he could use his eyes movements between letters to spell out words.
In those records, Rahimi appears to give short, one-word answers or shakes his head in response to questions.
Jailhouse visit for a DNA sample
The second topic addressed in Rahimi’s affadavit is a December 2016 jailhouse visit allegedly by an FBI agent to collect a DNA sample from him — except, Rahimi says, he did not know that the person visiting him was a law enforcement official.
Rahimi says that he was summoned to the receiving and distribution area in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center and was taken to the room where he regularly changes clothes for court appearances.
A man in a suit and tie who he did not recognize entered the room, Rahimi says. Rahimi didn’t see any sort of badge identifying the man as a law enforcement agent.
The man, who Rahimi said he later learned was an FBI agent, asked him, “Did Sabrina tell you I was coming?”
Rahimi claims that the way the agent asked him this question led him to believe that the agent was affiliated with Sabrina Shroff, his attorney, and therefore was a part of his legal team.
The agent then allegedly proceeded to take hair samples from Rahimi for DNA testing.
Later that day, Rahimi says, Schoff did come to visit him for a meeting. When Rahimi asked who the man was that had come earlier, Rahimi says that she was confused by his questions.
“What guy are you talking about?” Schoff asked, according to the affidavit. She told Rahimi that the legal team had not sent anyone earlier in the day for a hair sample.
“The sole and exclusive reason I provided the hair sample to the Agent was because I believed he was working for Sabrina and my attorneys,” the affidavit reads.
Next legal steps
The affidavit was filed in support of a new motion filed by Rahimi’s defense team that essentially asks the court to dismiss the DNA evidence from the hair sample and the hospital-room interviews as evidence.
The motion also asks that the court dismiss two of Rahimi’s counts related to using, carrying and possessing a destructive device based on other legal arguments.
The federal government will likely file a response to the motion. A judge has not ruled on the motion.