Sentenced on gun charges but not terrorism. Source: Dearborn Heights man accused of supporting ISIS sentenced to 5 years
A Dearborn Heights man prosecutors said sympathized with ISIS and talked about attacking a Detroit church was sentenced today to five years in prison on gun charges.
U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh handed down the sentence this afternoon for Khalil Abu Rayyan, 22, who talked about shooting people at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit and killing a police officer. Family members filled three rows in the courtroom during his sentencing in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
The case drew national attention when Rayyan was arrested in February 2016 amid growing concern among U.S. officials about ISIS support. Born to immigrants from Jordan, Rayyan identified as Palestinian and Muslim on social media, sometimes expressing sympathy for ISIS as two FBI undercover employees posing as Muslim women flirted with him online and by phone.
Rayyan pleaded guilty last year to making a false statement to acquire a firearm and possession of a firearm by a prohibited person. He was not charged with any terrorism crime, but federal prosecutors said he supported ISIS in social media postings and in conversations with two FBI undercover employees. When filling out an application to buy a gun in 2015, he said he wasn’t taking any illegal drugs, but was smoking marijuana often at the time.
Judge Steeh spoke for an hour in delivering his sentence, saying that Rayyan expressed support for ISIS, and posed a danger. Prosecutors had sought an eight-year sentence, while Rayyan’s attorney, Todd Shanker, called for 15 months.
In his sentencing remarks, Steeh said that Rayyan had on the wallpaper of his cell phone an image of an “ISIS terrorist holding a severed head” of a woman.
There were “countless other ways he expressed his support,” Steeh said.
In addition to his support for ISIS, Steeh said Rayyan was “practicing shooting at the firing range” with military-style weapons and talking about attacking a church and a police officer.
“This is not merely viewing an ISIS website,” Steeh said.
Prosecutors produced text messages where Rayyan said he listened to clerics like Ahmed Jebril of Dearborn, who prosecutors have said made radical statements, and “Anwar al-Awlaki, an Al Qaeda cleric who is popular among jihadists,” the government said in its sentencing memo. Jebril, who served a prison sentence for fraud in a separate case, is popular with ISIS fighters in the West, according to a London-based think tank. The late Al-Awlaki was behind the attempted downing of an airplane landing at Detroit Metro Airport on Christmas Day in 2009.
Steeh agreed with many of the government’s arguments, noting that Rayyan said he wanted to “die for the sake of Allah” and once said “jihad is my dream.”
Rayyan had a “fascination with murder … savage terrorist acts,” Steeh said.
After an FBI undercover employee established contact, Rayyan “discussed with her his plans to shoot up a church and kill a police officer,” Steeh said.
While discussing his plans to attack a Detroit church, the FBI undercover employees asked him: Would you even kill women and children?
In response, Rayyan said in text messages to her: “I would have killed every one last of them … women and children. … I would have shown no mercy … It would have been a bloodbath,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet said earlier in court.
A Detroit-area man who talked about attacking a church and a hospital on behalf of the Islamic State group was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday after a judge said remorse over his provocative words came “too little, too late.”
Khalil Abu Rayyan, 23, wasn’t charged with a terrorist act. But U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh said he couldn’t ignore Rayyan’s threats and infatuation with terrorism as he sentenced him for gun-related crimes.
Rayyan kept a beheading photo on his cellphone screen, boasted about becoming a martyr and repeatedly expressed support for Islamic State. He said he wanted to skin victims “like sheep.” The FBI learned about his online activities and used an undercover operative to reach out to him during the investigation.