Arrest in New York, New Jersey Bombings - Possible Charges?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 20, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ahmad Khan Rahami, the man thought responsible for bombing attacks in New York and New Jersey over the weekend, was arrested following a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey yesterday. Law enforcement believes Rahami placed the bombs that exploded Saturday night in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City and Seaside Park, New Jersey, as well as pipe bombs found Sunday night in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Linden prosecutors have already charged Rahami with five counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer after last night's shootout, along with one count each of second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. Could there be more charges to follow? And where will Rahami go to trial?

Saturday Bomb Attacks

The first bomb went off Saturday morning in Seaside Park near an armed forces charity race. The race was cancelled and no one was injured. The second exploded Saturday night in a crowded area on West 23rd Street, between Sixth Avenue and Seventh Avenue, in New York City. Twenty-nine people were injured, none critically, and most were scrapes and bruises caused by flying debris and glass. Law enforcement exploded another device in Elizabeth, New Jersey while trying to disarm it, and several other bombs were found throughout the investigation and in Rahami's home.

In the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the Boston Marathon bombing, Tsarnaev was charged by federal prosecutors with a total of 30 counts, including separate counts for "use of a weapon of mass destruction" for each of the three bombs he placed with his brother Tamerlan, and counts for possession and use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence for having a gun during the bombings and his capture, also after a shootout with police.

Who Charges What?

As noted above, federal prosecutors have yet to file similar charges against Rahami, and could be waiting for their investigation to be complete. The state charges already filed against Rahami could carry a life sentence. The decision of whether he will be prosecuted in state or federal court can be political and practical.

The federal government generally handles all prosecution of terror-related cases, as Rahami's would appear to be at this point. But in some instances, states take over, as was the case with Dylann Roof and the Charleston church shooting. As the investigation into Rahami continues, new facts may lead to new charges, at the federal and state level.

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