PHOENIX (AP) — Sentencing was postponed Tuesday for an American-born Muslim convert convicted of supporting the Islamic State group and helping to plot a 2015 attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas.
Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem appeared for an hour-long sentencing hearing in a federal court in Phoenix, but U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton delayed imposing his punishment and instead ordered attorneys to hand in legal briefs in preparation for a new sentencing hearing on Feb. 8.
Bolton asked prosecutors and Kareem's lawyer to provide opinions on whether a sentencing calculation used by federal judges to punish criminals should be increased in Kareem's case because the offenses were considered acts of terrorism.
Kareem said nothing during the hearing except "No" when asked by the judge whether he wanted a new lawyer.
Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence, while Kareem's lawyer has asked for less than six years of prison time.
Kareem provided the guns that two friends used to open fire outside the anti-Islam event in suburban Dallas and hosted the two Islamic State followers at his home to discuss the upcoming attack, authorities have said.
Kareem, 45, grew up in a Baptist household, but converted to Islam as an adult. He abandoned his birth name of Decarus Lowell Thomas and legally became Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem in 2013.
Kareem watched videos depicting violence by jihadists with the two friends, encouraged them to launch violent attack to support the terrorist group and researched travel to the Middle East to join Islamic State fighters, prosecutors have said.
Kareem also inquired about explosives to blow up the Arizona stadium where the 2015 Super Bowl was held, but later set his sights on the cartoon contest after the stadium plan fell through, the prosecutors said.
The verdicts against Kareem 10 months ago marked the second conviction of someone within the United States on charges of supporting the Islamic State.
Kareem was convicted of conspiring to support a foreign terrorist organization, interstate transportation of firearms and other charges.
His brother, who is expected to testify at the Feb. 8 hearing, has said Kareem was a Muslim throughout his adulthood, but that his faith deepened over the last five years after he was jailed on a drunken driving conviction.
His friends, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, were killed in the May 2015 police shootout outside the cartoon contest in Garland, Texas. A security guard was wounded, but no one else was injured. The contest featured cartoons that are offensive to Muslims.
It is unknown whether the Texas attack was inspired by the Islamic State or carried out in response to an order from the group.
Kareem testified at his trial that he did not know his friends were going to attack the contest and did not find out about the attack until after Simpson and Soofi were killed.
Kareem told jurors that he evicted Simpson from his home because he believed Simpson was putting tracking devices in his car. He also said he strongly disapproved of Simpson using Kareem's laptop to watch al-Qaida promotional materials.
Prosecutors said Kareem tried to carry out an insurance scam to fund a conspiracy to support the Islamic State group and attempted to indoctrinate two teenage boys in his neighborhood on radical jihadism.
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