A Massachusetts man who pleaded guilty to plotting to bomb the U.S. Capitol and Pentagon using remote-controlled aircraft was sentenced to 17 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns said at a hearing today in Boston that he accepted a plea agreement with Rezwan Ferdaus that called for a sentence of 17 years and 10 years’ supervised probation after release.
“No dehumanization can serve as a justification of inhumanity in other places,” Ferdaus read from a two-page statement in court. “I happily express the extent to which I have come to terms with my current situation. I find myself more learned and grown today than in days past.”
Ferdaus, 27, a graduate of Northeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in physics, designed and built detonation devices for plastic explosives using mobile phones, according to his indictment. He supplied 12 mobile phones modified to act as switches for the explosives to undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agents he thought worked for al-Qaeda.
He told the agents that he planned to fly two aircraft into the Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Defense Department, and one into the Capitol, where the U.S. Congress meets.
Ferdaus pleaded guilty to attempting to damage a federal building with an explosive and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. He had initially pleaded not guilty to six charges.
“Your statement convinces me you have the character and capacity to search your own soul,” Stearns said in accepting the plea agreement. “I’m going to leave it to you to finish that journey. There is nothing I can do for you.”
Ferdaus’s attorney Miriam Conrad told the judge the punishment was “sufficient but not greater than necessary to promote the purposes of sentencing.”
According to court papers, Ferdaus told the agents he wanted “to totally destroy and take out the enemy and kill as many kafir as possible.” “Kafir” is an Arabic term for nonbelievers.
“He wanted to be part of al-Qaeda,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Pirozzolo told reporters after the hearing. “He wanted to kill Americans. He was given 25 chances to back out of this.”
Ferdaus performed surveillance in Washington, ordered remote-controlled model planes from a Florida distributor and rented a storage unit in Framingham, Massachusetts, according to the indictment. After the agents delivered three grenades, six assault rifles and what Ferdaus believed were 25 pounds of plastic explosives, he locked the materials in the storage facility and was arrested, prosecutors said.
He used the alias Dave Winfield, the name of a former New York Yankees baseball player, when he bought the remote-controlled aircraft, according to the indictment.
Ferdaus was a resident of Ashland, Massachusetts, according to court papers. In a letter his parents wrote to the judge, his father, Showket, said he is a Muslim-American who emigrated from Bangladesh in 1975. The defendant’s mother, Anamaria, is Catholic, was raised in Angola and came to the U.S. in 1974. Their son’s passion was playing the drums, they said. During college, he began to show signs of mental illness and has been taking medication, according to the letter.
The case is U.S. v. Ferdaus, 11-10331, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).