A federal jury convicted three North Carolina men Thursday in a trial that focused on alleged plots to carry out terrorist attacks on the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., and foreign targets.
The jury in the month-long trial delivered its verdict against Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, Ziyad Yaghi and Hysen Sherifi after deliberating since Wednesday.
Yaghi and Sherifi were convicted on all counts. Hassan was found not guilty of conspiracy to carry out attacks overseas but convicted of providing material support to terrorists.
Hassan, Yaghi and Sherifi were part of a group of eight men who federal investigators say raised money, stockpiled weapons and trained in preparation for jihadist attacks against American military targets and others they deemed enemies of Islam.
Daniel Boyd, a convert to Islam whom prosecutors described as the ringleader, pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges in February. Two of his sons pleaded guilty to similar charges.
Aly Hassan, the father of Omar Hassan, said the family would not rest until his son's name is cleared, indicating he plans to appeal or seek a new trial.
"We're going to stick behind him because we know he is not guilty," Aly Hassan said. "It's a long nightmare."
U.S. District Court Judge Louise Flanagan said the men will be sentenced in about 90 days. The felony counts the men were convicted of carry sentences ranging from 15 years to life.
Another defendant, Anes Subasic, is set to be tried separately, while an eighth indicted man is at large and believed to be in Pakistan. All of the accused were either American-born naturalized U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
Prosecutors claimed at trial that Sherifi, a refugee from the Balkan nation of Kosovo, conspired with Daniel Boyd in 2009 to attack the U.S. Marine base at Quantico outside Washington, D.C.
Boyd, whose father was a Marine officer, had lived on the base as a child. At trial, prosecutors played a recording of Boyd telling a paid undercover informant how easy it would be to kill Marine officers, their wives and children. Jurors also were shown a large cache of rifles, pistols and ammunition amassed by Boyd at his rural home near Raleigh.
Hassan and Yaghi were accused of attempting to travel to Israel in 2007 to meet up with Boyd and his sons to carry out an attack. Defense lawyers and relatives said the young men traveled to tour holy sites, stay with relatives and, in Yaghi's case, find a wife.
Defense lawyers also said none of the hundreds hours of audio recordings and video surveillance collected by the FBI in a 5-year investigation of Boyd ever captured him or his alleged co-conspirators discussing specific plans for an attack. The lawyers for the three also said the government's case amounted to prosecuting young Muslims who did little more than watch jihadist videos on computers and trade "stupid" Facebook posts in support of those fighting Americans overseas.
The 2009 arrests of the men provoked anger and fear among some Raleigh-area Muslims, who worried their community was the subject of aggressive scrutiny by federal law enforcement after 9-11. Some members of a Raleigh mosque, along with a network of relatives and friends, regularly made the five-hour trip to New Bern to give the men moral support.
As the verdict was read Thursday, several of the women sobbed. The defendants showed no emotion.
Leaving court Thursday, federal prosecutors and defense lawyers declined comment on the outcome, citing a continuing gag order.
Afterward, Aly Hassan said he questioned why the trial was scheduled to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks when that timing could further fan suspicions about Muslims among potential jurors. He also questioned why the judge moved the trial from Raleigh to New Bern, where the potential jury pool was less likely to be diverse and more likely to draw from communities surrounding two Marine bases.
David Schanzer, a Duke University professor and the director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, said government investigators have uncovered relatively few terrorist plots in the past decade.
"It's really been a much smaller problem than we had anticipated immediately after 9/11," he said.
Since the 9-11 attacks, fewer than 200 people have been arrested in the U.S. in connection with violent, jihadi-inspired terrorist plots, he noted.
Aly Hassan, a Raleigh car dealer, said there's no proof his son supported any terrorist conspiracy. He added: "We defend this country. If there's anything against this country, we'll be the first ones to fight for it."
Associated Press writer Tom Breen contributed to this report from Raleigh. Biesecker can be reached at twiiter.com/mbieseck