A New England ISIS suspect tried to organise the beheadings of ‘non-believers’ from inside jail while awaiting trial on terror charges, prosecutors claim.
Nicholas Rovinski of Warwick, Rhode Island and his co-accused David Wright of Everett, Massachusetts were arrested and charged in June 2015 with providing material support to ISIS.
However, following a hearing at US District Court in Boston on Thursday, the pair were also charged with plotting to kill conservative blogger Pamela Geller.
Prosecutors allege Rovinski and Wright received instructions from a foreign-based ISIS recruiter.
Rovinski and Wright both pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges.
The court heard the pair allegedly plotted with Wright’s uncle Usaamah Rahim to behead blogger Pamela Geller, who is known for provoking Muslims. The plot was not carried out.
Thursday’s indictment says ISIS recruiter and hacker Junaid Hussain communicated instructions about the plot directly to Rahim from overseas in May 2015. It says Rahim then told his nephew.
Hussain was killed in a US drone strike in Syria in August. The US military has said Hussain had been recruiting sympathizers in the West to carry out lone-wolf terrorist attacks.
Rahim was killed June 2 by investigators who say he lunged at them with a knife when they approached him in Boston.
According to the indictment, even from jail, Rovinski has tried to recruit people to help carry out plans for violent attacks in the United States, including to decapitate non-believers.
Geller last year organized a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest that ended in gunfire in Garland, Texas, with two Muslim gunmen shot to death by police. She has spearheaded scores of events across the nation to decry Islamic extremism.
According to the new indictment, Rovinski has continued to support Islamic State while in jail by trying to recruit others to ‘decapitate non-believers’ and take down the U.S. government and by writing a new pledge of support to the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on the back of his own criminal complaint.
Rovinski and Wright pleaded not guilty to the original charge of conspiring to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization after they were arrested in June, and they were due to face trial in February 2017.
According to the new indictment, Rovinski and Wright plotted their attacks with Wright’s uncle, Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, who was shot dead by law enforcement officers last June when Boston police and agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation approached him and he threatened them with a knife.
The indictment accused Rahim of beginning communication one month before he was shot with a British member of Islamic State, Junaid Hussain. Hussain was believed by government sources to be the leader of CyberCaliphate, a hacking group that last year attacked a Twitter account belonging to the Pentagon.
The indictment said Hussain gave Rahim instructions that Rahim passed on to Wright about targeting individuals such as Pamela Geller, organizer of a ‘Draw Mohammad’ cartoon competition in Garland, Texas, that was attacked by two gunmen last May.
Hussain was killed in a US drone strike in Syria last August.
Wright has pleaded not guilty to charges he alone faced of obstructing justice and conspiring to obstruct justice after he was accused of instructing Rahim to delete his phone and laptop data.
Wright and Rovinski now face maximum sentences of life in prison as a result of the new charges announced on Thursday. They are scheduled to be arraigned on April 28, according to the docket report in their case.