Federal prosecutors are recommending a 25-year prison sentence for a Massachusetts man convicted of conspiring to help al-Qaida, characterizing him as an angry man who obsessed about violence against Americans for most of his adult life.
Tarek Mehanna, an American who grew up in the wealthy Boston suburb of Sudbury, was convicted in December of traveling to Yemen to seek training in a terrorist camp with the intention of going on to Iraq to fight U.S. soldiers there. Prosecutors said that when that plan failed, Mehanna returned to the United States and began translating and disseminating materials online promoting violent jihad.
Mehanna, 29, is scheduled to sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court on four terror-related charges and three counts of lying to authorities. He faces up to life in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.
In a sentencing recommendation filed in court Tuesday, prosecutors did not ask for the maximum, despite blasting Mehanna for plotting to commit violence against Americans and working to recruit others to do the same.
Prosecutors said he deserves a substantial prison term, saying he lived a "double life," appearing as a "dutiful and scholarly young man" to his family and community, but in reality, he "was a proponent of violence as a means of achieving political goals."
"Mehanna's crimes of conspiring to kill Americans and providing support to this country's enemies are among the most serious a person can commit," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aloke Chakravarty and Jeffrey Auerhahn, and U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Jeffrey Groharing, wrote in the sentencing memorandum.
"He had been involved in that enterprise for years before the government learned of his intentions. The need for punishment, along with the need to prevent him from reoffending and to deter others, require a substantial prison sentence."
Prosecutors also recommend that after Mehanna completes his sentence, he be placed under supervised release for as long as he remains in the United States.
Defense lawyers paint a far different picture of Mehanna. They point out that he never did receive terrorist training and say his trip to Yemen at the age of 21 was "entirely unsophisticated."
"There was no evidence that Mehanna's actions actually threatened United States security interests. There was no evidence that Mehannas provided any tangible material support such as funds or weapons to terrorist activity or to Al Qaeda," Mehanna's lawyers wrote in their sentencing memorandum.
The defense is recommending a maximum sentence of 6 1/2 years.
Attorney Janice Bassil did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the 25-year recommendation from prosecutors.