The South Carolina sheriff's deputy who stopped a car with two University of South Florida students in August says he initially suspected the silver Toyota with a Florida tag was involved in drug trafficking.
But under questioning by defense attorneys for the two men, Deputy James Lamar Blakely said that when he was told by another deputy that the pair had copies of the Quran, that raised suspicions in his mind of terrorism.
Blakely testified Tuesday in a hearing over a motion by the defense to suppress evidence on the grounds that the search of the car during the stop was illegal. The two defendants, Ahmed Mohamed and Youssef Megahed, both Egyptian nationals, are charged with illegally transporting explosives. Mohamed also is charged with trying to help terrorists by posting on the Internet a video of himself demonstrating how to use a remote-controlled toy to detonate a bomb.
A video of the Aug. 4 traffic stop in Berkeley County, S.C., was played in court Tuesday, as Blakely explained his actions.
Blakely was grilled about derogatory comments he was recorded making about the men's ethnicity.
"The driver ain't much saying anything," he said at one point to a fellow deputy, Andy Taylor. "Except when I asked him why he didn't pull over, he said because the roads were slanted, but both of them were sitting holding Qurans in their lap while they're driving. One's got a laptop. I think they're part of the Taliban.". . .
Blakely said he wrote up a traffic warning to give to Mohamed, but wound up searching the car and arresting the men instead. On the traffic citation, in the space for race or ethnic origin, Blakely testified he put an "I" for Islamic. That's not standard operating procedure, he said under cross-examination by Mohamed's attorney, Lyann Goudie. "I have a habit of doing that," he said. (MORE)