CINCINNATI — A former chemistry student was sentenced Wednesday to 20 years in prison for plotting to behead a U.S. military veteran and attack a police station in support of the Islamic State group.
Munir Abdulkader, 22, apologized in court after his attorney emphasized that he had no criminal history and was known in his suburban West Chester Township community as kind and thoughtful — before being influenced by an FBI confidential informant as well as Junaid Hussain, an Islamic State group recruiter who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Syria last year.
"He's got Hussain in one ear and he's got the informant in the other," attorney Richard Smith-Monahan told U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett.
Timothy Mangan, an assistant U.S. attorney, said Abdulkader had pledged allegiance to a terrorist organization known for barbaric acts. Authorities said Hussain helped identify a U.S. military employee for Abdulkader to kidnap at home and behead while making a propaganda video. The plot then called for him to attack a police station with explosives and a gun, Mangan said.
"They were intentionally targeting the people who are trying to protect us," said Mangan, calling it one of the "most significant" Islamic State group-related plots against the U.S. homeland.
The veteran, whose name hasn't been made public, wrote a letter to the judge saying he thinks every day about the plot that included tying up his family.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman said: "Our citizens can sleep a little more soundly tonight knowing that he (Abdulkader) will be in prison for 20 years."
Abdulkader, a former Xavier University chemistry student, dropped his head as the judge explained his rights to appeal the sentence. Monahan said they would discuss the options.
"I just sincerely apologize to the court for my actions," Abdulkader told the judge. "I'm not proud of my conduct. I'm not proud of who I supported."
Abdulkader pleaded guilty earlier this year to attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States and to providing material support of a foreign terrorist organization, along with a firearms count. He was arrested in May 2015 after buying an AK-47 rifle through the informant.
Monahan had asked for a five-year sentence, citing sentences for other cases involving terrorist plots and the defendant's prior history.
After his release from prison, Abdulkader will be on a lifetime of probation that will include monitoring his computer use and having his cellphones and other electronic devices subject to search at any time.
Marc Sageman, a former CIA operations officer who has written extensively about terrorist organizations, claimed in a filing for the defense that Abdulkader was unfairly set up by an informant who gave him means to commit an attack he otherwise wouldn't be able to carry out.
Mangan said Abdulkader had been expressing support for Islamic State group extremists, beheadings and martyrdom months before the informant became involved. He said it was fortunate the informant was able to prevent any bloodshed.
His arrest in 2015 came four months after another young suburban Cincinnati man was arrested by the FBI on charges he plotted to attack the U.S. Capitol in support of the Islamic State group.
Christopher Lee Cornell, 22, of Green Township, pleaded guilty to three counts including attempted murder of U.S. officials and employees and is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 5.