December 19, 2017 / 11:03 AM / 10 months ago

U.S. judge sentences man for 'monstrous evil' of beheading plot

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts man convicted of conspiring to support Islamic State militants in a 2015 plot to attack police and behead a conservative blogger wept on Tuesday as he asked forgiveness from a judge who sentenced him to 28 years in prison.

U.S. District Judge William Young told David Wright, 28, that he had “embraced a monstrous evil” when he plotted with his uncle and a friend to travel to New York to attempt to behead conservative blogger Pamela Geller in an act of retribution for her having organized a “Draw Mohammed” contest.

The group never made the trip, as Wright’s uncle, Usaamah Rahim, lost patience and told his co-conspirators that he wanted to kill law enforcement officers in Massachusetts. Agents overheard that conversation, and when police approached Rahim in a supermarket parking lot to question him, authorities say he lunged at them with a knife and was shot dead.

“You are not a monster, yet you embraced a monstrous evil,” Young told Wright after sentencing him to less than the life in prison prosecutors had sought. “You’ve got to live with the fact that you sent your uncle out there to be killed.”

Wright, who was not present when his uncle was shot, was found guilty in October of plotting the New York attack as well as destroying evidence.

Geller had agreed with prosecutors in seeking a life term.

“This will never end for me, so it should never end for Daoud Wright. If he gets out, my family members and me will be in new danger,” Geller said, using an alternate name for Wright.

Wright testified during his trial that he had been living in a “fantasy world” when the group discussed plans including somehow hijacking a U.S. warship. He said he was stunned when Rahim attacked police.

“I reject everything that ISIS stands for and represents,” Wright said in remarks punctuated by high-pitched sobs. “I want to apologize to law enforcement to the extent that my words or failure to act put them in danger.”

His defense lawyers had asked for a sentence of 16 years.

Geller’s May 2015 contest in Texas featured cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, images many Muslims consider blasphemous. Two gunmen had attacked that event, and police shot them dead.

Geller said her event was intended as a demonstration of the free-speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown

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