Monday, March 31, 2008

Fort Dix Six Plotter Gets 20 Months

One of the Fort Dix Six, Agron Abdullahu, has been sentenced to 20 months in prison for his role in the terror plot against the Army base in New Jersey after pleading guilty to weapons charges in October 2007.
Agron Abdullahu, the Ocean County man who admitted he provided weapons used at a firing range by illegal aliens charged last spring with plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, was sentenced today to 20 months in federal prison.

Abdullahu, 25 and a refugee from Kosovo, could be released from custody next fall, said his attorney Richard Coughlin, federal public defender for New Jersey.

Throughout the 90-minute sentencing hearing, Couglin, a team of federal prosecutors, and U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler said repeatedly that Abdullahu had no active part in the conspiracy to attack personnel at the military base.

Setting for the his reasons for the sentence, more than the 11 months suggested by the defense but substantially less than the 60 months that the government said “would be reasonable,” Kugler referred to letters written in support of Abdullahu. Those letters described him as a hard-working, pleasant, and polite man who loved the United States.
Abdullahu had pleaded guilty in October to weapons charges stemming from the terror plot.
n October, Mr. Abdullahu pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of providing firearms to illegal aliens. On Monday, he is to be sentenced by Judge Robert B. Kugler of Federal District Court in Camden, N.J.

Five other suspects in the case — Mohamad Shnewer, Serdar Tatar and three Duka brothers, Eljvir, Shain and Dritan — face charges including conspiracy to kill military personnel. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

In a case that raised fears of domestic terrorism, Mr. Abdullahu’s sentence could stand as an early gauge of the strength of the government’s case.

The prosecution relies in part on recorded conversations between the suspects. Transcripts were released by prosecutors last week as part of a sentencing brief to Judge Kugler, asking for “a two-level enhancement” of Mr. Abdullahu’s sentence and an “upward departure” from the sentencing guidelines, which call for 10 to 16 months for the crime to which Mr. Abdullahu pleaded guilty.

The 77 pages of transcripts — peppered with profanities, politics, and talk of violence, including the best way to kill American soldiers — cover just a few of the hundreds of conversations the authorities said they had recorded.

In their brief, the prosecutors also cited graffiti Mr. Abdullahu had etched on the door of his cell, including a gun firing at the initials “F.B.I.,” and said the transcripts proved that Mr. Abdullahu knew he was providing firearms to dangerous men.

“Abdullahu’s crime of placing lethal weapons in the hands of self-proclaimed admirers of jihad ‘significantly endangered ... national security’ because the Dukas spoke openly of attacking American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” read the brief.

The transcripts also begin to illustrate the role of one of the government’s informants in the case, called CW-2 in the transcripts. Defense lawyers have said they will focus on the roles the informants might have played in coaxing their clients toward more alarming conversations.

In interviews, some of the lawyers said they were taken aback by the release of the transcripts, saying that it seemed excessive since prosecutors had already agreed to the guilty plea. Michael Riley, a lawyer for Shain Duka, said: “Public perception is an issue. This poisons the well for us.”

He added: “The tone may not be there. The words are devastating.”

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