SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/AP) — An Oakland man who pleaded guilty to trying to support an Islamic terrorist group was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years and eight months in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer rejected Amer Alhaggagi’s plea for a much shorter sentence, saying he found the most disturbing aspect of the case
to be Alhaggagi’s “total lack of empathy” for potential victims of the never-completed bombing plots.
Federal prosecutors had sought a sentence of 33 years in prison while Alhaggagi’s attorneys asked for a sentence of four years.
Alhaggagi pleaded guilty in July to creating social media accounts for Islamic State supporters. Prosecutors paint a darker picture of him, saying he accessed an Islamic State bomb-making manual and boasted about a series of attacks he wanted to commit on behalf of the group, including setting off a car bomb outside a gay nightclub.
“His aim was to ‘redefine terror,’ and he promised that if he succeeded, the ‘whole Bay Area (was) gonna be in flames,’” lawyers with the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco said in a court filing.
Alhaggagi’s attorney Mary McNamara, meanwhile, tried to portray the Berkeley High School graduate as an out-of-work, pot-smoking Internet “troll” seeking only to provoke and annoy with violent, anti-American claims.
The 23-year-old Oakland man plotted for two years with undercover agents to blow up courthouses, landmarks and tourists attractions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
McNamara argued that Alhaggagi’s talk of bombing a nightclub and a student dormitory were just grandiose jokes. She said Alhaggagi was social immature and a “class clown.” But Breyer said a joke about violence “is not a joke.”
“It is a very serious matter,” he said.
Before he was sentenced, Alhaggagi apologized after a day-long hearing where recordings of his violent anti-American boasts were played and displays of text messages threatening to kill his Oakland neighbors.
“I find it hard to look and listen to all the horrible things I said to the undercover agent,” he said. “I made myself look like a crazy person.”
The sentence imposed by Breyer also included two years for charges of identify theft and creation of a fraudulent credit card to which Alhaggagi also pleaded guilty.