After the arrest of terrorist suspects, the case often goes silent for so long that one forgets about them. I published a column on "L.A.'s Thwarted Terror Spree" over two years ago. Now, suddenly, Levar Haley Washington, 28, and Kevin James, 31, have reappeared in the news, having pleaded guilty to the charge of seditious conspiracy. Washington also pleaded guilty to using a firearm to further the conspiracy. Both face up to 20 years in prison on the conspiracy charge and Washington could have an additional five years to life for the firearms offense.
The other two conspirators, Gregory Vernon Patterson and Hammad Riaz Samana, are charged with conspiracy to levy war against the U.S. government through terrorism, conspiracy to possess and discharge firearms in a violent crime, conspiracy to kill members of the U.S. government uniformed services, and conspiracy to kill foreign officials. In addition, Patterson is charged with a robbery count and using a firearm in a violent crime. Patterson is expected to plead guilty to a terrorism conspiracy charge on Dec. 17. Samana has been declared mentally unfit to stand trial.
Beyond the specifics of their fates, as the NEFA Foundation explains in "Guilty Pleas from Members of 'Al-Qaida of California'; Treasure Trove of Documents Released," there is much of interest in this case:
Kevin James and Levar Washington pled guilty to federal terrorism charges, admitting they plotted to attack United States military facilities, "infidels," and Israeli and Jewish facilities in the Los Angeles area. FBI official John Miller has commented, "of all of the terrorist plots since 9/11, it is probably the one that operationally was closest to actually occurring...they had selected targets. They had chosen dates. They had obtained weapons." And FBI Director Robert Mueller has revealed that the men "viewed themselves as 'al Qaeda of California.'" Accompanying the plea agreements, prosecutors released a handful of documents, summarized here and here, that offer rare insight into the mindset of homegrown American jihadists. Most notable is Kevin James' 104-page "JIS Protocol," in which James writes that the "faithful mujahid...are commanded by Allah to battle against disbelievers..." James also authored "Blueprint 2005," in which he instructs recruits to "acquire two Weapons (pistols) with silencers" and "find contacts for explosives or learn bombmaking," as well as "Notoriety Moves," which "included a proposed statement to the press following attacks by JIS members." Finally, another defendant, Hammad Samana, who has been ruled mentally unfit to stand trial, authored a document titled "Modes of Attack" that listed addresses of possible targets.
NEFA Foundation provides more detail at "The L.A. Plot to Attack U.S. Military, Israeli Government, & Jewish Targets." (December 14, 2007)
Dec. 17, 2007 update: Sure enough, Gregory Patterson, 23, pleaded guilty today to charges of conspiring to levy war against the U.S. through terrorism and conspiring to possess and discharge firearms. He faces up to 25 years in prison. His sentencing will be on April 14.
Levar Washington, foiund guilty.
Levar Washington, foiund guilty.
July 21, 2008 update: U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney sentenced Gregory Patterson to 151 months in federal prison. During the sentencing, Patterson broke down, cried, and apologized: "Your honor, I'm thoroughly embarrassed and appalled by my actions. I don't even recognize who I was three years ago. Never before in my life before meeting these people, did I believe in violence or targeting innocent civilians." He went on to express his regret to Jews, Muslims, the U.S. government, and all Americans, vowing "I will never allow anything like this to happen." Carney allowed that Patterson came under the influence of Kevin James and Levar Haley Washington but he characterized the plans as "truly frightening. This is an active terrorist cell … ready, willing and able to conduct its evil plot."
Aug. 26, 2008 update: Levar Washington has been sentenced to an additional 22 years behind bars in state prison, this time for his part in robbing a Torrance, California, gas station.
Mar. 6, 2009 update: Kevin James was sentenced to 16 years in federal prison. According to the FBI press release, dated Santa Ana, California, he "formed the terrorist group he dubbed Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, or JIS." U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney said during the sentencing that James "was the architect and mastermind of a very serious, very troubling offense." U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien added that "The JIS terrorist group reminds us of the dangers that continue to confront our nation. Both foreign enemies and so-called homegrown terrorists have the desire to stage potentially deadly attacks on American soil." Given these statements, one wonders why the sentence was so light.
The press release also indicates that Hammad Samana "has been found unfit to stand trial and is currently receiving care at a federal prison facility."
Aug. 17, 2009 update: Hammad Riaz Samana was sentenced to 70 months in prison. According to U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney at the sentencing hearing today, Samana had a smaller role in the plot than the other three who have been convicted: he conducted computer research on the terrorism targets and was the getaway driver for one of the armed robberies, plus he suffers from schizophrenia, so Carney imposed a substantially lighter sentence on Samana than on the others. (Washington is serving 264 months in prison, James 192 months, and Patterson 151 months.) Samana had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.