via Inland Men Who Conspired ‘Violent Jihad,’ Joining Terror Cells Sentenced to Federal Prison | Banning-Beaumont, CA Patch.
Two Southern California men who planned to commit “violent jihad” against American troops by joining terrorist groups in Afghanistan were each sentenced Monday to 25 years in federal prison.
Sohiel Omar Kabir, 36, of Pomona and Ralph Kenneth DeLeon, 26, of Ontario, were convicted last September following a nearly monthlong trial at the federal courthouse in downtown Riverside.
Kabir was found guilty of two counts of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and one count each of conspiring to kill American troops and conspiring to receive military training from al-Qaida.
DeLeon was convicted by the same seven-man, five-woman jury of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to murder or maim members of the armed services overseas, and conspiring to kill employees of the United States.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips sentenced the men separately in hearings that collectively lasted just over three hours.
In pronouncing sentence for Kabir, Phillips said it was “hard to understate the seriousness of the offense.”
“It wasn’t just talk,” she said. “We’ve seen all too often how little it takes for young men to cause havoc and loss of life. Just because his plan didn’t come to fruition — it doesn’t reduce the seriousness of what he intended to do.”
Kabir’s attorney, Federal Public Defender Jeffrey Aaron, argued for a 10- year prison term, citing mitigating factors, including what he said was his client’s low I.Q. Phillips was not swayed, pointing out that Kabir’s own family had acknowledged he was intelligent, though admittedly “lazy.”
The judge said Kabir had been given every break after his family fled to the U.S. as refugees and were given asylum.
“He is an example of someone who betrayed the hospitality extended to him by this country,” Phillips said.
Kabir, clad in a white jail jumpsuit and sporting a shaved head and chest-length beard, declined to address the court.
DeLeon’s attorney, David Thomas, also requested a 10-year sentence for his client, telling the judge that he had undergone a reformation since being jailed in 2012. Thomas said DeLeon embraced an “extremely warped religious fanaticism” out of a desperate, though perverse, desire to achieve something meaningful in his life.
“He allowed himself to be surrounded by the wrong types of influences,” the attorney said. “It made him want to be the best extreme Muslim he could be. He jumped right into the deep end, and he sunk.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Grigg countered that DeLeon had enormous family support, had been gifted a car and was less than two months shy of attaining a bachelor’s degree in business when he threw it all away in the interest of committing “unfathomable” acts of violence.
“He said he wanted to be on the frontlines,” Grigg said. “He eschewed the idea of being a suicide bomber because he said he wanted to be able to see the suffering of those he targeted.”
Phillips ordered that both men be placed on lifetime supervision, or parole, following their release from prison.
In a sentencing brief, the U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that Kabir was the “emir,” or leader, of the group and that he “converted DeLeon and (Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales) to Islam … (and) encouraged them to travel overseas to engage in violent jihad.”
“Kabir … encouraged the group to join him in Afghanistan, including by telling them about his connections to the Taliban and al-Qaida, discussing his physical preparations for fighting and warfare, and various ‘missions’ and operations he was asked by terrorists to participate in,” the document states.
Vidriales, 24, of Mexico and 23-year-old Arifeen David Gojali of Riverside both reached plea agreements with the government several weeks before DeLeon and Kabir went on trial last August. They’re in custody and slated to be sentenced March 16.
Gojali testified that he was persuaded to take up arms against the U.S., Britain and Israel after several conversations with DeLeon, a native of the Philippines who converted to Islam in 2011.
The government presented hours of secretly taped audio recordings between DeLeon and a “confidential source,” identified in court documents only as a Muslim man who worked for the FBI and won the defendants’ trust by pretending to subscribe to jihadist views.
DeLeon’s enthusiasm for “Holy War” was such that he felt killing in the name of Allah and the Prophet Mohammed would mean “guaranteed paradise,” according to a transcript of one recording.
As we asked here,
What do Californian Sohiel Omar Kabir, an Afghani immigrant, a Mexican immigrant, and a Philippino immigrant all have in common?
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