N.Y. Man Who Tried to Join Terrorists Gets 13-Year Term

A New York man found guilty of lying to U.S. agents about his plans to join terrorist groups in Pakistan was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, 23, was sentenced today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, after his March conviction on three counts of lying to law enforcement about his purchase of a plane ticket to Islamabad. He faced a maximum sentence of 21 years.

Prosecutors alleged Shehadeh, from Staten Island, wanted to wage “violent jihad” by joining the Taliban or al-Qaeda and killing U.S. troops abroad. He told them instead that he wanted to attend a wedding or a religious school, prosecutors said.

“One can argue that Mr. Shehadeh is standing here because someone poisoned his mind,” U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano said during the hearing. “Because ideas can do that.”

The New York native created several Islamic extremist websites and was acquainted with other New York-based al-Qaeda recruits who planned a failed suicide bombing of the city subway system in 2009, according to prosecutors. One of the subway plotters, Adis Medunjanin, had Shehadeh’s number stored in his phone when he was arrested in 2010, prosecutors said in a letter filed earlier this week.

Denied Entry

Shehadeh was denied entry into Pakistan when he flew there in June 2008 and immediately returned to the U.S., where federal agents kept in contact with him for more than two years.

Later, Shehadeh tried to join the U.S. Army so he could turn his gun on fellow soldiers in the battlefield and also attempted to fly to Somalia with the intention of joining terrorist groups, prosecutors alleged. The Army rejected him because he failed to disclose the Pakistan flight in his travel history, prosecutors said.

“There was one reason he did not succeed, and it was that the government stopped him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Sarratt said during the hearing.

Shehadeh, who has been in custody since 2010, claimed at trial that federal agents manipulated him, leading him at one point to falsely believe he was working as a government informant.

The case is U.S. v. Shehadeh, 10-cr-01020, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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