A federal judge Monday delayed an Orange County man’s sentencing for attempting to aid an Islamic terrorist group until later this week in part because he has heard about a new program that aims to “de- radicalize” some defendants in terrorism cases.
Prosecutors argued in court papers that Muhanad Elfatih M.A. Badawi deserves the same punishment as co-defendant Nader Salem Elhuzayel, who was sentenced Sept. 26 to 30 years behind bars. The two were both convicted June 21.
U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter put off sentencing until Wednesday morning so Badawai could have time to read a report from probation officials and to consider the program, which has been in use in Minnesota, where there are multiple cases of defendants who attempted to travel to Syria or Iraq to fight for the Islamic State.
In Minnesota, Carter said he was just informed, officials have hired Daniel Koehler, who works in Germany’s interior ministry because he has a background in deprogramming Nazis and white supremacists, Carter said.
Six of nine so-called “traveler” cases in Minnesota are due to be sentenced in mid-November, a probation department official told Carter.
“This is frankly a new area for our country,” Carter said of radicalized citizens willing to fight for Islamic militants and the program to “de-radicalize” them.
“I just heard about this program literally last week,” Carter said.
Carter indicated he might not hand down as harsh a sentence against Badawi as he did his co-defendant, although he acknowledged that prosecutors have offered a “very strong” argument for 30 years behind bars.
“I’m not sure about you yet,” Carter said to Badawi.
Carter said Elhuzayel was “radicalized but beyond redemption.”
Carter also inquired about Badawi’s health given his past history of fasting to the point of requiring medical care.
“I don’t understand the starvation,” Carter said.
Badawi’s attorney, Kate Corrigan, said she looked into Koehler’s program, but she told Carter, “Frankly, I don’t think it’s something my client is interested in.”
After the hearing, Corrigan said, “Had he been interested I would have brought it up.”
Prosecutors think Badawi’s crimes require the same punishment as his co- defendant.
“Badawi was a radicalizer, recruiter, and facilitator, and like co- defendant Elhuzayel, defendant Badawi aspired to die a martyr fighting jihad for ISIL,” prosecutors argue in their pre-sentencing brief, using one of the acronyms for the group also known as the Islamic State group.
“Despite the attempts of others to dissuade him, defendant Badawi continued to promote the ISIL ideology and gather fighters for ISIL. In short, defendant Badawi’s role as a radicalizer, recruiter, and facilitator makes him more dangerous than any single would-be fighter.”
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.
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