CLEVELAND, Ohio — An Akron man has agreed to serve between 15 and 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to federal terrorism-related charges.
Terrence McNeil, 24, is accused of posting files on his social-media pages in 2015 that contained the names and addresses of people believed to be members of the military. Included in the files were messages encouraging others to kill those people, according to the FBI.
He did all this to support of the Islamic State, a terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, prosecutors said.
McNeil entered into an agreement in which he has agreed to serve between 15 and 20 years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to five counts of solicitation to commit a crime of violence and five counts of making threatening interstate communications.
If U.S. District Judge Dan Polster accepts the plea agreement, he must sentence McNeil within that range. The judge will sentence McNeil on Aug. 2.
McNeil plea comes a few weeks before he was to go to trial. He had previously rejected other plea offers.
Polster had warned McNeil that the evidence that prosecutors had against him was strong and that a jury would not take kindly to the types of images that were expected to be presented.
Had he gone to trial, McNeil would have faced a likely sentence of life in prison. He is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
When Polster asked McNeil during Tuesday’s plea hearing to raise his right hand swear that the testimony he was going to give was the truth, McNeil said he could not do so, according to a recounting of the hearing.
“I only swear by Allah,” McNeil said, according to the recounting.
“Well, I’m not asking you swear under any God, alright? If you want to swear under Allah, you can do that. I didn’t put it in that form, but if you’d like to take the oath in that form, that’s OK,” Polster replied, according to the recounting.
The judge then asked if he swore “under Allah,” and McNeil said “sure,” according to the recounting.
Nathan Ray, McNeil’s court-appointed attorney, declined to comment after the hearing.
McNeil used several social-media websites to profess his support for ISIS, prosecutors said. A file he posted Sept. 24, 2015 on his Tumblr page had the header “Islamic State Hacking Division,” followed by “Target: United States Military” and “Leak: Addresses of 100 U.S. Military Personnel.”
The file is a .gif, which allows multiple images to be looped. The text of the first file encouraged people who saw it to kill the military members “in their own lands, behead them in their own homes, stab them to death as they walk their streets thinking that they are safe…”, prosecutors said.
“This case demonstrates the challenges faced by law enforcement in confronting global terrorism,” Acting U.S. Attorney David Sierleja said in a statement. “It highlights the dangers posed by terrorists committed to carrying out attacks here in the United States and their use of social media to accomplish their mission. The message should be clear that individuals who engage in this behavior will be aggressively prosecuted.”
Abu Fil, as he was known on Tumbler, was Arrested for Soliciting the Murder of U.S. Military Members.