MIAMI (AP) — A man seeking a more lenient prison sentence than federal prosecutors want for supporting overseas terrorism must first demonstrate he has renounced extremist views and show remorse, a federal judge said Thursday.
Prosecutors want 31-year-old Gufran Mohammed to serve the maximum 15 years behind bars for conspiring to support the al-Shabaab group in Somalia and al-Qaida in Iraq. Mohammed admitted when he pleaded guilty that he provided about $30,000 to the groups — although some of that went instead to an undercover FBI employee posing on the Internet as a terror financing middleman.
Mohammed's attorney, Helaine Batoff, said comparing Mohammed's crimes to other terrorism support cases around the country calls for a lesser sentence of about eight years in prison. U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, however, said she could not grant such a variance without more information about Mohammed's current political views and remorse for the crime.
"Where is the defendant now?" Ungaro said. "I don't know that he's remorseful. I don't know that he has renounced these kinds of activities. He's admitted to a crime. I don't know what that means in terms of acceptance of responsibility."
Batoff said Mohammed, who sat silently in shackles during a hearing, was not ready to speak to the judge Thursday. The sentencing was delayed until Dec. 3.
Originally from India, Mohammed is a naturalized U.S. citizen whose family settled in the Los Angeles area in 2003. He has a master's degree in computer science from California State University at Los Angeles and decided to take a computer software job in Saudi Arabia in 2011.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ricardo Del Toro said Mohammed began sending wire transfers intended for the terror organizations in June 2011 through his co-defendant, Mohamed Hussein Said of Kenya. Said has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in May.
Beginning in May 2012, Del Toro said, the FBI had detected the activity through Internet chat rooms frequented by Muslim extremists and the undercover employee began acting as a go-between for Mohammed and the terror groups, this time including the Taliban fighting U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Said was persuaded through a ruse in 2013 to travel to Saudi Arabia to meet Mohammed, where both were arrested in flown to the U.S. to face the charges.
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