Opening arguments in terror trial

Posted: July 09, 2007

SCRANTON - The trial of Michael Curtis Reynolds, a Wilkes-Barre man accused of reaching out to al-Qaeda on the Internet to blow up the Trans-Alaska pipeline, began today, with the U.S. government accusing Reynolds of trying to cause chaos by disrupting the flow and refining of oil.

Reynolds' attorney, in turn, described him as a patriot and military veteran who was simply trying to fight al-Qaeda.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus Jr. said in opening statements that Reynolds caught the attention of Shannen Rossmiller, a former judge who goes online to ensnare terrorists. Reynolds then described a plan, which included maps, drawings and bomb-making equipment, that al-Qaeda could use to destroy the American energy infrastructure, including a facility in nearby Benton, Pa., through which the Trans-Continental Pipeline passes.

"He even admitted he thought he was in contact with al-Qaeda" to carry out the plan, Gurganus said.

Rebutting the charge in his opening statements, Reynolds' attorney Joseph O'Brien said this was merely a case of "spy versus spy," referring to an old Mad magazine cartoon that depicted a U.S. and an Iron Curtain spy perpetually fighting the Cold War.

In this case, O'Brien said, Reynolds and Rossmiller simply "bumped into each other" on the Internet, each trying to thwart al-Qaeda. "Michael Reynolds was motivated like Shannen Rossmiller," O'Brien said. "Both were going on the Internet as private citizens to ferret out terrorists."

Rossmiller was expected to testify in the afternoon session of the trial, which got off to a very fast start after a jury was selected and seated by 10:15 a.m. today.

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Contact staff writer Albert Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or alubrano@phillynews.com.

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