Brooklyn judge issues opinion explaining why he sentenced ex-ISIS member time served
Hon. Jack B. Weinstein, a U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of New York, issued a 43-page opinion on Monday where he explained why he sentenced an ex-ISIS member to time served and 10 years of supervised release — the judge cited the defendant’s assistance to U.S. counterterrorism efforts and his low risk of recidivism as reasons for the lenient sentence.
“At a time when the inner workings of ISIS were not well understood in the United States, he provided valuable detailed information on ISIS’s activities,” Judge Weinstein wrote in his opinion. “He also helped deter others from joining ISIS and similar terrorist groups.”
In the opinion, Judge Weinstein said that the main question before the court during sentencing was how to balance the defendant’s personal story, with the need to protect the public from further crimes he could potentially commit while also providing a deterrence of others who might help ISIS.
The 29-year-old defendant, known only as John Doe at trial to protect his and his family’s safety is an immigrant from Bangladesh and a U.S. citizen. On June 12, 2014, he boarded a flight out of JFK to Turkey and traveled to ISIS controlled territory in Syria.
On Nov. 26, 2014, he pleaded guilty to providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and receiving military-type training from a terrorist organization. He was sentenced on June 28, 2018.
According to court documents, the defendant joined ISIS in an administrative role, and received military training, carried firearms, was introduced to explosive belts used to blow up civilians and was present during at least one battle.
According to testimony, what the defendant experienced did not live up to his expectations of an Islamic utopia, but was unprepared for the unrestrained brutality he saw. During the trial, he testified that he had immediate regret.
“Right before going across the border . . . I was beat up by border patrol,” the defendant testified. “I’ve never been in a real fight ever . . . I remember ending up on my back on the ground and I felt oddly enough some kind of relief. OK, now I’m going to go back home. I’m in way over my head. But then we were forced to go past the border and I ended up across the border and then we ended getting picked up by ISIS people.”
Feeling betrayed, in October 2014, while still in Syria, the defendant reached out to the FBI and offered to assist the U.S. government and sought help in returning home to New York. The defendant that spent the next four years fully cooperating with U.S. law enforcement agencies.
“Because the defendant was cooperating with the government within hours of leaving an ISIS camp in Syria, he was uniquely situated to inform the government of ISIS strategies, tactics, techniques, procedures, personnel and logistical operations,” said a government official during the trial. “Moreover, because ISIS was under the impression that the defendant was merely visiting a neighboring country and was planning to return to Syria, he was able to assist the government in communicating with multiple members of ISIS covertly, in real time, to gain additional valuable information about their activities, which was shared with multiple U.S. government agencies.”
Judge Weinstein also explained that the defendant participated in an EDNY U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Disruption and Early Engagement Program (DEEP) terrorism prevention program where he worked with local kids, “on a path towards jihadism.” He has continued to work with DEEP since his release on bail, according to the judge.
In total, the defendant was incarcerated for more than 21 months before the trial. He was released on bail on Aug. 19, 2016 and has been on supervised release since.
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