Chicago terror suspect asked about attacking non-Muslims before sting, FBI agent testifies

This undated file photo provided by the US Marshals office shows Chicago terrorism suspect Adel Daoud. (US Marshals office via AP, File)
Updated 30 April 2019
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Chicago terror suspect asked about attacking non-Muslims before sting, FBI agent testifies

  • Daoud was arrested in 2012 after he pushed a button on a remote he believed would detonate a bomb outside a crowded bar
  • Defense attorneys say Daoud's case is an example of how the FBI often snares the psychologically vulnerable in such stings
CHICAGO: A multiday sentencing hearing began Monday in Chicago and focused on whether FBI agents manipulated a mentally fragile teenager to participate in a terrorist plot or whether he had long before shown an eagerness to kill.
Prosecutors called an FBI agent to the witness stand to tell Adel Daoud’s sentencing judge that Daoud posted social media comments inquiring about attacking non-Muslims more than a year before undercover agents ever engaged him as part of a sting.
Authorities arrested Daoud in late 2012 after he pushed a button on a remote he believed would detonate a 1,000-pound (454-kilogram) bomb outside a crowded Chicago bar. Prosecutors want a 40-year prison term for Daoud, who entered an Alford plea in November.
Defense attorneys say the now-25-year-old, who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Hillside, is a textbook example of how the agency often snares the psychologically vulnerable in such stings. They want US District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman to release him as soon as a mental health treatment plan can be developed for him.
The agent who took the stand first, Jeff Parsons, read postings Monday in which Daoud expressed admiration for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, described himself as an aspiring terrorist and even typed keywords like, “I am a terrorist” and “download terrorist magazine,” on search engines.
Defense attorney Thomas Durkin suggested during cross-examination later Monday that Daoud’s overt and clumsy online chat about being a terrorist should have been a strong sign he was no such thing.
“How many terrorists do you know who have literally proclaimed online that, ‘I am a terrorist?’” Durkin asked Parsons. The agent answered he hadn’t heard of others.
The agent said he saw nothing in Daoud’s postings indicating he suffered from mental illness. He said Daoud showed initiative, suggesting to undercover agents that fitting butcher knives to a truck and driving it into a crowd would be a way to kill many people at once.
Durkin mentioned another idea of Daoud’s — to stage attacks by deploying “flying cars.” He said that idea should have been one of many red flags.
“Did it ever occur to you ... that the person you were dealing with was unstable?” Durkin asked the agent.
“I didn’t see anything indicating he was mentally unstable,” Parsons answered.
The agent also read comments Daoud posted admitting he may not have the qualities for a militant, saying, “I got asthma and flat feet. ... And I have never even held a gun before.” He added: “I have a terrible case of procrastination and laziness.”
In 2016, Coleman temporarily deemed Daoud mentally unfit after ruling that he seemed sincere about assertions that Illuminati and “reptilian overlords” were out to get him.
On Tuesday, prosecutors intend to call an undercover agent who played a central role in the sting against Daoud. Prosecutors say the agent’s life would be in danger if his identity is revealed public, so he will either testify in a disguise or from behind a screen.


Sharer of New Zealand mosque shooting video gets 21 months

Philip Neville Arps, left, appears for sentencing in the Christchurch District Court, in Christchurch, New Zealand, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (AP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Sharer of New Zealand mosque shooting video gets 21 months

  • Under New Zealand laws aimed at preventing the distribution of objectionable material, Arps faced up to 14 years imprisonment on each count

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: A Christchurch businessman who shared a video of worshippers being slaughtered at a New Zealand mosque was sentenced on Tuesday to 21 months in prison.
Philip Arps had earlier pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing the video, which was livestreamed on Facebook by a gunman on March 15 as he began killing 51 people at two mosques.
Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said that when questioned about the video, Arps had described it as “awesome” and had shown no empathy toward the victims.
The judge said Arps had strong and unrepentant views about the Muslim community and had, in effect, committed a hate crime. The judge said Arps had compared himself to Rudolf Hess, a Nazi leader under Adolf Hitler.
“Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred,” the judge said.
O’Driscoll said Arps had sent the video to 30 associates. The judge said Arps also asked somebody to insert crosshairs and include a kill count in order to create an Internet meme, although there was no evidence he’d shared the meme.
Under New Zealand laws aimed at preventing the distribution of objectionable material, Arps faced up to 14 years imprisonment on each count.
In other cases, at least five other people were also charged with illegally sharing the shooting video. An 18-year-old was jailed in March while the others weren’t kept in custody. The teen is accused of sharing the video and an image of the Al Noor mosque with the words “target acquired.” He is next due to appear in court on July 31.
The judge said Arps had argued he had a right to distribute the video under the banner of freedom to pursue his political beliefs.
Arps’ lawyer Anselm Williams told the judge that Arps should not be sent to prison.
“It’s my submission that this court needs to be very careful to sentence Mr. Arps based on what it is that he has actually done, and what he accepts he has done, not on the basis of the views that he holds,” Williams said.
After the hearing, Williams said Arps had filed an appeal against his sentence at the High Court, but declined to comment further.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, last week pleaded not guilty to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism in the mosque shooting case. His trial has been scheduled for next May.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has helped lead a global pledge named the “Christchurch Call,” aimed at boosting efforts to keep Internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks. New Zealand has also tightened its gun laws and banned certain types of semi-automatic weapons since the attack.