HARRISBURG, Pa. — A 20-year-old Pennsylvania man pleaded guilty Monday to trying to help the Islamic State group and to tweeting out a list that identified and targeted people serving in the U.S. military.
Jalil Ibn Ameer Aziz faces the potential of up to 25 years and a $500,000 fine after admitting to a charge of conspiring to provide material support to the Islamic State group and to transmitting a communication containing a threat, both felonies.
Aziz, a natural born American arrested in Harrisburg in December 2015, used about 70 separate Twitter accounts and an encrypted mobile messaging application to spread messages from the Islamic State group and to help people trying to travel to territory it controls, said federal counterterrorism prosecutor Robert Sander.
In March 2015, Aziz published on Twitter a list of more than 100 American military personnel that included photos, rank and addresses, along with instructions to kill them, Sander told the judge. Aziz referred to it as an assassination list, Sander said.
The message exhorted people to "kill them in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their street."
Federal officials say the service members on the list were notified and appropriate security measures were taken.
During a search in November 2015, authorities found five high-capacity magazines, a knife, a balaclava and other equipment in the home he shared in Harrisburg with his parents.
Federal public defender Thomas Thornton said Aziz does not remember all of the messages he was accused of sending or retweeting.
After the hearing, Thornton described his client as "a young kid who was tweeting from his bedroom."
"He's very sorry that he ever got himself involved in something like this," Thornton said.
Authorities have said Aziz also expressed on Twitter his interest in "buying" a Yazidi woman upon his arrival in Islamic State group territory.
"I just want one girl 17 years old," he tweeted, according to federal prosecutors.
In a filing last week that argued the Yazidi posts were irrelevant and should not be evidence at trial, Thornton called the communications "no more than the fantastical musings of an isolated and suppressed teenage boy."
Yazidis, whose heartland is in Iraq's remote Sijar region, have been targeted by Islamic State group militants for conversion and elimination, and Yazidi women have described being forced into sexual slavery.
Aziz's sentencing was scheduled for May.