An “extremely dangerous” Orange County man convicted of attempting to aid an Islamic terrorist group was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison.
“I believe you’re radicalized, you’re a recruiter and you’re extremely dangerous,” U.S. District Judge David O. Carter told the defendant as he handed down the sentence.
Upon release from federal prison, Badawi will be under supervision for the rest of his life.
When Carter asked Badawi if he wanted to speak on his own behalf, the defendant said, “No statement.” His attorney, Kate Corrigan, said she advised her client to not make a statement to protect his rights under appeal.
Before handing down the sentence, Carter told Badawi, “I was still struggling with you” on what punishment he deserved.
Carter had prosecutors play wiretap tapes of Badawi discussing his plans to recruit more supporters of the Islamic State from a local mosque.
Carter said Elhuzayel “is a thug,” and told Badawi, “But you’re just as dangerous because of your intelligence.”
Carter also lashed out at the Islamic State for “indiscriminate beheadings” and “mass killings of civilians,” which he said had nothing to do with the Muslim religion.
“There is no religion, no ideology that brands that as any less than evil,” Carter said. “That is just pure evil.”
The judge praised Badawi’s family for supporting him through a time when the defendant, in Carter’s estimation, was “starving” himself while in custody.
“You are good and decent people,” Carter said to the defendant’s family. “I want to thank you for keeping (the defendant) from starving himself.”
Corrigan asked that Badawi be given 15 years in custody and 20 years of supervised release. The defense attorney implored Carter to find a balance between civil rights and buying into the “fear” of Islamic militants that drive lengthy sentences.
“What this case boils down to is not giving in to fear,” Corrigan said, adding that there were some legal documents in the case she wasn’t allowed to see.
“Our rights are being destroyed left and right by ISIS,” Corrigan said. “We continue to allow them to win.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Deidre Eliot said Badawi’s “greatest goal was to die a martyr for ISIS.”
She argued Badawi planned to go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State, something Corrigan said was just “speculation” not supported by evidence.
The prosecutor noted the defendant asked his Twitter followers, “Where are my Islamic State brothers.” She added, “That captures the essence of who he is.”
Elhuzayel was the first defendant convicted at trial to be sentenced in a so-called ISIL “travel case,” Carter noted as he handed down his punishment last month. Elhuzayel was also convicted of 26 counts of bank fraud.
Prosecutors characterized both defendants as obsessively praising Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria on social media as they shared photos of beheadings of “unbelievers.”
Corrigan conceded that her client engaged in a great deal of “un- American” and at times “repulsive” speech, but said Badawi “was a lot of talk and absolutely no action.” She claimed her client was duped by a dishonest Elhuzayel about what he intended to do with money Badawi loaned him.
Elhuzayel’s attorney, meanwhile, argued that his client should be acquitted on the legal technicality that the United States did not recognize the Islamic State as a terrorist organization at the time of the defendant’s arrest.
Elhuzayel used the ISIS flag as his profile picture on a Facebook account, according to prosecutors, who said Badawi in October 2014 made a video of Elhuzayel swearing allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and pledging to travel to Syria to be an ISIS fighter.
In March 2015, Badawi received a $2,865 Pell grant, which prosecutors said he used two months later to purchase a one-way airline ticket for Elhuzayel from Los Angeles International Airport to Tel Aviv, Israel, with a six-hour layover in Istanbul.
Elhuzayel, who operated a scheme to rip off banks by depositing stolen checks into his personal accounts and then withdrawing cash from automated teller machines, was arrested at the airport.
–City News Service