A federal judge in Riverside Friday heard arguments but did not immediately rule on a request to cancel a guilty plea made by a man who bought guns used by the couple who carried out the 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino.
Enrique Marquez Jr., 27, pleaded guilty in February 2017 to one count each of providing material support to terrorists and making false statements in the acquisition of firearms.
Marquez stated on a federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form that he was the actual buyer of the two high-capacity semiautomatic rifles ultimately used by 28-year-old Sayeed Rizwan Farook and his wife, 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik, in the massacre at the Inland Regional Center during an employee Christmas party that left 14 people dead and 22 wounded. The pair died a few hours after the rampage in a gun battle with police.
In exchange for Marquez’s admissions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office dropped related charges of marriage fraud, immigration visa fraud and lying on a federal document.
However, over the course of a hearing that spanned two days, Marquez’s defense attorney, John Aquilina, argued that the guns purchased by his client were not connected to any terrorism plots. He also said Marquez made the admissions because he felt a “moral guilt” and wanted the victims to have closure.
Prosecutors pushed back by saying the defense’s reasoning did not meet the standard for allowing a withdrawal of a plea.
U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal took the matter under submission and a written ruling is expected next week.
The defendant moved to Riverside and met Farook, his next-door neighbor, in 2005. Under the future jihadi terrorist’s sway, Marquez converted to Islam, after which he adopted a radical philosophy, and by late 2011, the two were preparing to commit terrorist attacks, according to court papers.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that Marquez admitted making plans with Farook to commit mass murder at the library or cafeteria of Riverside City College. The men also schemed to go on a killing spree along the eastbound Riverside (91) Freeway during afternoon rush hour, identifying a particular section of roadway that had no exits, according to the FBI.
The defendant backed out of the terrorist plots in November 2012, after the arrests of four Inland Empire men who were gearing up to join the Taliban in Afghanistan. All four were eventually convicted and sentenced to between 10 and 25 years in prison.
A 25-year sentence for Marquez was recommended by prosecutors as part of the plead deal.
Marquez remained in federal custody.
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