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Chelsea bombing Dumpster can come into courthouse, judge says

Emergency personnel work at the site of an

Emergency personnel work at the site of an explosion on West 23rd Street in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood on Sept. 19, 2016. The trial of accused Chelsea bomber Ahmed Rahimi is scheduled to begin Monday after jury selection was completed Thursday. Photo Credit: AP / Jason DeCrow

Prosecutors have been granted permission to bring a Dumpster into the Manhattan federal courthouse for the trial of accused Chelsea bomber Ahmed Rahimi, scheduled to begin Monday after jury selection was completed Thursday.

A brief order by U.S. District Judge Richard Berman didn’t give details about the government’s plans for the Dumpster and prosecutors would not elaborate, but the bomb that exploded on West 23rd Street last September had been put inside a Dumpster.

The pressure-cooker bomb injured more than 30 people, propelled the 100-pound-plus Dumpster 120 feet, and left it a hunk of twisted metal. Another bomb was left on West 27th Street, but it was found before it detonated.

Rahimi, 29, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, is charged with leaving the two bombs, and is separately charged in New Jersey with planting bombs there, and engaging in a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey, when he was captured.

Berman only approved the physical movement of the Dumpster into the courthouse, and said he had not yet ruled on whether it would be admitted into evidence. Defense lawyers for Rahimi said they hadn’t known until Thursday that prosecutors hope to introduce the Dumpster.

The jurors picked to hear the case in a partly public, partly private process over two days this week were a multiethnic group of eight men and four women with a blue-collar tinge, including two truck drivers, a New York City worker and a city bus driver, a nurse, a nurse’s assistant, a professional cook and a Home Depot laborer.

Four of those finally chosen from the starting panel of 150 were from Westchester County, four from Manhattan, and three from the Bronx, but numerous members of the jury pool dropped out along the way over concerns about the nature of the case in a city where 9/11 is still fresh for some.

“I actually watched the towers fall and, you know, I feel pretty emotional about that still,” Marisa Biehl, a nonprofit marketer, told Berman. “I had colleagues who lost their lives and I feel affected by that and I don’t know if . . . I can be completely impartial.”

Another member of the jury pool, Paul Chacho, told the judge he had been a juror once before, in September 2001.

“The one day we had off was September 11th,” he said. “I was an alternate. There was a juror who didn’t come back and I later found out was a victim. I took that juror’s spot and that definitely affects my ability to be . . . fair and impartial.”

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