Kansas man sentenced to 20 years for airport bomb plot

AP News
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Posted: Aug 31, 2015 4:45 PM
Kansas man sentenced to 20 years for airport bomb plot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who plotted a suicide bomb attack aimed at causing "maximum carnage" at a Wichita airport was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison

Terry L. Loewen apologized to his family and thanked his attorneys before U.S. District Judge Monti Belot imposed the proposed sentence that came with the plea deal. Loewen stared straight ahead and showed no emotion as the judge pronounced the expected sentence.

The 60-year-old Wichita man pleaded guilty in June to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. His arrest in December 2013 was the culmination of a months-long sting operation in which two FBI agents posed as co-conspirators.

"Here in the heartland, terrorism will never shake our faith in the things this country stands for — freedom, fairness and opportunity," U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said afterward in a news release. "We won't give way to those who would inflict violence on their fellow citizens."

Loewen made a brief courtroom statement in which he apologized to his wife and his two sons and his extended family.

"I love you all and I realize the pain and suffering I caused you is enormous ... I do not ask for forgiveness because I deserve none," he said.

Prosecutors told the court that the proposed sentence in the plea agreement was much lower than other national security cases, but that the government believed it was appropriate given Loewen's age and health conditions.

His attorney, Tim Henry, asked Belot to recommend Loewen be incarcerated in a federal prison as close to his family as possible, adding he has been a "model inmate" in jail and does not need to be in a maximum security prison.

Loewen came to the attention of the FBI in late May 2013, when he became a Facebook friend of an individual who regularly posted information supporting violent jihad, or holy war, court documents show. Authorities said agents became concerned after looking back through Loewen's own Facebook activities. An online undercover agent contacted him, and offered to introduce him to someone who could help him engage in jihad.

At the time, Loewen was an avionics technician for Hawker Beechcraft's facility at Mid-Continent Airport, now called the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. He was arrested on Dec. 13, 2013, as he tried to use his employee badge on a card reader to bring the fake bomb onto the tarmac.

"Terry Loewen abused his privileged airport access to attempt to perpetrate a terrorist attack in Wichita, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Carlin said in the news release. "The National Security Division's highest priority is protecting the United States against terrorist threats — both international and domestic."

Loewen's case is among at least 462 terror crimes associated with groups such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State that the U.S. government has prosecuted since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to security issues.