The man accused of killing a New Jersey teenager and three other men as retribution for U.S. military action in the Middle East could eventually be charged with terrorism offenses, according to a national security expert.
William C. Banks, Director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University, said that if the details of a confession by Ali Muhammad Brown described in court papers filed in Washington state Wednesday are accurate, he could face additional charges at either the state or federal level.
“If he’s got the motivation that he announced he has, which is to extract revenge for the U.S. killing of Muslims in that part of the world, he’s a terrorist,” Banks said. “It’s a matter of motivation.”
Brown, 29, has been in custody at the Essex County Jail in Newark since July 18 on charges related to the murder of Brendan Tevlin, a 19-year-old college student from Livingston who was shot eight times as he drove through West Orange on his way home June 25.
Authorities in Washington have also charged him with a trio of slayings, including the shooting deaths of two gay men in Seattle on June 1, and the death of another man whose body was found on a highway in an unincorporated area outside the city April 27.
Court documents detailing the charges in the April killing, made public on Wednesday, include statements from Brown indicating that he carried out the killings as “vengeance” for the loss of innocent lives killed as a result of American military operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other parts of the Islamic world.
“All these lives are taken every single day by America, by this government. So a life for a life,” he said, according to the documents.
Banks said that direct references to political motivations could provide prosecutors with adequate grounds to lodge a terrorism charge, though it is unclear if they would be motivated to do so.
New Jersey has a terrorism statute, punishable by up to life in prison for cases resulting in death, which includes crimes intended “to influence the policy or affect the conduct of government by terror.” Washington maintains a similar law, though the existing murder charges against Brown are already sufficient to draw a maximum sentence in either state maximum sentence, including, in Washington’s case, death.
The alleged murders also likely qualify under federal terrorism statues, Banks said. Though the U.S. Department of Justice recently reinstated its Domestic Terrorist Executive Committee, it is generally more focused on obtaining and sharing information on subversive organizations, rather than individuals like Brown, who appears to have acted alone in the majority of his crimes, he said.
Katherine Carter, a spokeswoman for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, said prosecutors have not engaged in any discussions with federal authorities regarding Brown’s case.
The office is currently in discussions on whether to extradite Brown to stand trial in Washington state before beginning proceedings in the Tevlin case. No timeline for a decision has been offered.
Ali Muhammad Brown, the convicted sex offender charged with killing two men in Seattle’s Leschi neighborhood on June 1, is now suspected of fatally shooting a Skyway man about one month earlier.
Brown, a Muslim who law-enforcement sources say claims to be a jihadi, served federal prison time for conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with a plot to defraud several banks.
In that case, between January 2002 and November 2004, Brown and three other men defrauded U.S. Bank, Bank of America, Key Bank, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo and Boeing Employees Credit Union by depositing counterfeit and fake checks, then withdrawing funds before the checks were returned, according to charging documents filed in U.S. District Court.
Authorities determined that many of the men involved were supporting terrorism in Somalia.
Previously post on Ali: Seattle: Muslim ex-con executes 2 gays, wanted in Jersey armed robbery
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