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U.S. Brings 2 ISIS Members to U.S. For Trial in Virginia

Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, two of the four ISIS members known as "the Beatles" who are accused of being prison guards who tortured Americans James Foley, Kayla Mueller, Steven Sotloff, and Peter Kassig while they were held as hostages, are coming to the United States for trial in Virginia. This follows months of neogtiating with Great Britain which finally agreed to turn over evidence in its possession based on on William Barr's agreement not to charge a death penalty offense.

The third member of the group, British citizen Aine Davis, is being held in Turkey. The fourth member and leader of the group,"jihadi john" aka Mohammed Emwazi, was targeted and killed in a U.S. airstrike several years ago.

Several European journalists captured and held by ISIS were eventually released, when their countries or families paid the ransom. The U.S. and Britain do not pay ransom, and thus,Foley and the other Americans were killed.

And still no definitive word on what happened to John Cantlie. Most assume he is dead, but some captured ISIS fighters have said they saw him after the collapse of ISIS in Iraq. [More...]

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India Still Waiting on Shami Witness Evidence

Mehdi Masroor Biswas, the prolific Tweeter, ISIS news disseminator and aggregator, aka @ShamiWitness, has been incarcerated in India since December, 2014. He wasn't charged until June, 2015. And he still hasn't been tried. In May, the Indian media reported his trial might begin in June. June is just about gone. What's the latest?

Despite claiming they had a good case, it appears India is struggling with proving the charges. India is just now seeking "letters rogatory" for Google and Facebook to provide information on Shami Witness' email accounts. (Here's a description of "letters rogatory"). India sought Google's help directly in November, 20015 and has yet to receive a response. Will Letters Rogatory make a difference?

Out of more than 100,000 tweets, police say they have found one in which he gave out information about an open border crossing between Turkey and Syria. I explained here in detail why I don't think that tweet shows criminal intent. [More...]

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Tsarnaev Pal Who Provided Gun Sentenced to Time Served

Stephen Silva, the long time friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was sentenced in federal court this week to time served for his possession of a weapon with a partially obliterated serial number and distribution of heroin. (History and details here.)

Why the break? He cooperated and testified at Tsarnaev's trial that he loaned Tsarnaev a Ruger P95 9mm pistol. He said Tsarnaev had told him it would be used to rob students who attended the University of Rhode Island. The gun was used after the Marathon bombing to kill MIT officer Sean Collier. (Tamerlan is alleged to have used the gun days later in the Watertown shootout. An officer testified Tamerlan threw it at him when he ran out of bullets.)

Last night while rummaging around the Internet, I found the transcript of Silva's testimony here. Not surprisingly, it contains many details I don't recall the media reporting when covering his testimony or sentencing. The sentencing pleadings by both sides contain even more details. Recap below: [More...]

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Hearing Held on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Motion for New Trial

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers sparred in court with prosecutors today as a hearing was held on his motion for new trial.

Arguments centered on a recent Supreme Court ruling finding the law providing for stiffer penalties for crimes involving the possession of a gun or explosives to be overbroad and constitutionally vague. The ruling affects half of the counts of which Tsarnaev was convicted, and his lawyers say a new penalty trial is required.

Also addressed: Restitution, and Tsarnaev's conditions of confinement. In passing, the Judge indicated he is closer to unsealing many of the court pleadings.

The judge reserved ruling.

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Cooperating Terror Defendant James Ujaama Sentenced to Time Served

Long time terror defendant James Ujaama was finally sentenced yesterday. For his cooperation, he received a sentence of time served.

I've been writing about him since his arrest in 2002. He was initially arrested in Denver as a material witness in a case in Virginia, and then charged in federal court in Washington with trying to set up an al Qaida traing camp in Bly, Oregon. (The terror camp that never was.) After being detained in Seattle, he agreed to cooperate and pleaded guilty in exchange for a 2 year sentence. But he fled to Belize before sentencing, probably to avoid having to testify against Abu Hamza, the AQ Sheikh with one eye and hooks for hands, or as he later testified in 2009, because he was no longer trusted and didn't fit in. [More...]

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Tsarnaev Moved from USP to Supermax

I missed the news earlier this week that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was moved from the USP at Florence to ADX (Supermax.)

Supermax has 9 units and 6 maximum security levels, but because Tsarnaev has Special Administrative Measures (SAMS), restricting his ability to communicate with the outside world, he's likely in the Special Security Unit -- the H Unit Here are the 2013 regulations for the H Unit.

Even the H Unit has phases, similar to the step down programs of the Supermax general population units. Supposedly, inmates can work their way down to more favorable conditions.

Like what? With really good behavior, after a period of time, they can get a job out of their cells for an hour a day as an orderly, cleaning or mopping floors. And an expanded commissary list. But no ice cream. You have to be in a general population unit for that. Here's the Commissary List for the H Unit. And here's the list for the USP (US Penitentiary, High Security, General Population) at Florence. [More...]

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Full text of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's Statement

Here is the full text of Dzhokhar's statement at his death penalty trial.

THE DEFENDANT : Thank you, your Honor, for giving me an opportunity to speak. I would like to begin in the name of Allah, the exalted and glorious, the most gracious, the most merciful, "Allah" among the most beautiful names. Any act that does not begin in the name of God is separate from goodness.

This is the blessed month of Ramadan, and it is the month of mercy from Allah to his creation, a month to ask forgiveness of Allah and of his creation, a month to express gratitude to Allah and to his creation. It's the month of reconciliation, a month of patience, a month during which hearts change. Indeed, a month of many blessings.


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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Speaks at Sentencing

Dzhohkar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death for the Boston Marathon bombings. From live tweets of reporters Jim Armstrong and Patricia Wen in the courtroom.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev spoke for about 4 minutes. He expressed remorse. "I would like to now apologize to the victims and to the survivors." ..."I am sorry for the lives I have taken....for the suffering I have caused and the terrible damage I have done."

He left no doubt about his guilt:

"I am guilty of the bombing, let there be no lingering question about that."

He thanked his attorneys and said "I cherish their company." He said they have done a lot for his family. His defense attorney, Judy Clarke, told the Court he had tried to settle the case before trial. [More...]

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Robel Phillipos Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

Robel Phillipos was sentenced to three years in prison today for his false statements to the FBI after the Boston Marathon bombings. He was ordered to pay a $25,000. fine and spend 1 to 3 years on supervised release after release from prison. He was also ordered to take random drug tests and undergo drug treatment. The judge said, "There’s a price to be paid for the failure of responsibility. There’s a price to be paid to the community."

The Judge granted him a voluntary surrender and did not order him into custody today.

The government had requested Phillipos serve 63 months in prison. My live blog of the hearing (taken from numerous accounts of reporters in the courtroom posted on Twitter -- Hashtag #Phillipos -- as well as my thoughts on why this is too harsh a sentence are below. [More...]

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Tsarnaev Friend Azamat Tazhayakov Sentenced to 42 Months

The federal judge presiding over the cases of three friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnav sentenced Azamat Tazhayakov to 42 months (3 1/2 years) in prison today. He has already served 26 months. With good time (54 days a month after the first year) he should be done in a year or less, at which time he will be deported to Kazakhstan.

The Government had asked for four years. His lawyers asked for time served (26 months.) His guidelines, due to the terror enhancement, were 360 to life. As with Dias, the judge disregarded the enhancement since their obstruction did not involve terrorist acts. [More...]

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Jury Sentences Tsarnaev to Death on Some Counts

The jury has returned a sentence of death for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Counts 4,5,9,10,14, and 15. See Jim Armstrong on Twitter for each finding.


The counts on which the jury voted for death pertain solely to Lingzi Lu and Martin Richard. The jury did not return death verdicts on counts with Officer Sean Collier or Krystle Campbell.

On the mitigating factors:

  • Only 3 jurors agreed he would not have committed the offense but for Tamerlan.

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Bin Laden Aide Sentenced to Life in Prison

Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi and alleged top aide to Osama bin Laden, was sentenced to life in prison today for his role in the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania.

He was not charged with helping to plan the attacks, which killed 224 and injured more than 4,000. Instead, prosecutors said he was bin Laden's "bridge to the West" in London, disseminating the al Qaeda leader's violent messages to media outlets and sending supplies to the group's members in Africa.

Related: From VICE: Why anti-terror proposals going after extremist ideas are counter-productive.

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