By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge sentenced a Massachusetts man to 28 years in federal prison on Tuesday for conspiring to support Islamic State militants in a 2015 plot to attack police and behead a blogger who organized a "Draw Mohammed" contest.
David Wright, 28, was found guilty in October of five criminal charges for planning with his uncle and a friend to travel to New York to attempt to behead conservative blogger Pamela Geller.
The group never made the trip, as Wright's uncle, Usamaah Rahim, lost patience and told his co-conspirators that he wanted to kill law enforcement officers in Massachusetts. Agents overheard that conversation, and when police approached Rahim in a supermarket parking lot to question him, authorities say he lunged at them with a knife and was shot dead.
Wright was not present but was convicted of plotting the New York attack as well as destroying evidence.
Federal prosecutors had sought a life sentence.
Geller asked the judge to sentence Wright to life in prison.
"This will never end for me, so it should never end for Daoud Wright. If he gets out, my family members and me will be in new danger," Geller said, using an alternate name for Wright. "Giving a lighter sentence to Daoud Wright would send a message to thousands of others like him that they can plot freely."
Wright testified during his five-week trial that he had been living in a "fantasy world" and that the plans were no more than role playing. He said he had never intended to harm Geller and that he was stunned when Rahim attacked police.
"I reject everything that ISIS stands for and represents," Wright said in remarks punctuated by high-pitched sobs. "I want to apologize to law enforcement to the extent that my words or failure to act put them in danger."
Wright also apologized to his family and to Geller, saying, "I am so sorry if I made you feel like you were in a state of fear."
His defense lawyers had asked for a sentence of 16 years, followed by a lifetime of supervised release.
Geller's May 2015 contest in Texas featured cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, images that many Muslims consider blasphemous. Two gunmen had attacked that event, and police shot them dead.
Geller said her event was intended as a demonstration of the free-speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown)