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Two Aurora cousins to be sentenced in terror plot on Joliet armory

A year and a half after his arrest in an Islamic State-inspired plot to attack a Joliet armory, former Illinois National Guard member Hasan Edmonds says he's a changed man.

In a letter last month to the federal judge who is to sentence him Tuesday, Edmonds said he's "reflected much and learned a great deal" about himself since his arrest. He realizes now he was "led astray by the hateful rhetoric" of ISIS.

"My involvement in this debacle is a mixture of confusion, guilt, anger, idealism and naivete," wrote Edmonds, who along with his cousin, Jonas Edmonds, pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiring to and attempting to provide material support and resources to a terrorist group. "In hindsight, it appears I have jeopardized my life and my freedom for what was tantamount to a fool's errand."

Federal prosecutors, however, have asked U.S. District Judge John Lee to sentence Edmonds to 30 years in prison, calling his actions a "contemptible betrayal of both the nation's trust and his fellow soldiers" at the National Guard training station he and his cousin plotted to attack.

"Betraying one's country while in its service is a particularly grave crime," prosecutors wrote in a recent court filing.

Prosecutors have also called for a 21-year sentence for Jonas Edmonds.

The two Aurora cousins were arrested in March 2015 after Jonas Edmonds dropped off his cousin at Midway Airport for his planned trip to the Middle East to join Islamic State, federal prosecutors said.

The day before, the two had traveled to the Joliet armory, where Hasan Edmonds had trained with the Illinois National Guard, to scout the facility for an attack with AK-47 assault rifles and grenades that they hoped would kill as many as 150 people, according to a criminal complaint.

Jonas Edmonds was going to carry out the attack while wearing his cousin's uniform from his service. Hasan Edmonds also told his cousin where soldiers would be training inside the facility and where "ranking" members would be located.

The sentencing for the American-born cousins comes days after the weekend bombings in New York and New Jersey led to a massive manhunt and the arrest of Pakistani-born Ahmad Khan Rahami, as well as a stabbing spree at a Minnesota mall that has been linked to a wing of the Islamic State.

According to the charges, the FBI began investigating the cousins in 2014 when agents discovered they had devised a plan for Hasan to travel overseas and use his military training to fight for the Islamic State.

Beginning in January, Hasan Edmonds had several online exchanges with a person he thought was an Islamic State fighter in Libya, saying that if he was unable to get to Syria, he would stay in the U.S. and "fight and die here in the name of Allah," according to the charges. In a message Jan. 30, he told the contact — who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent — that the best way to beat the U.S. and its Army was to "break their will," according to the complaint.

"With the U.S., no matter how many you kill they will keep coming unless the soldiers and the American public no longer have the will to fight," Edmonds wrote, according to the complaint. "If we can break their spirits we will win."

On Feb. 2, 2015, Hasan Edmonds contacted the undercover agent again and said his cousin was willing to carry out the attack on U.S. soil.

"Honestly we would love to do something like the brother in Paris did," Hasan Edmonds allegedly wrote in a reference to the January 2015 terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine's headquarters in France in which 16 people were slain.

The Edmondses are among a string of terrorism-related cases stemming from Chicago's suburbs.

In 2013, federal authorities charged Aurora resident Abdella Ahmad Tounisi with providing material support to terrorists after he allegedly pledged on a fake recruitment website — secretly operated by the FBI — to join terrorists in Syria.

The next year, Bolingbrook teen Mohammed Hamzah Khan was charged with plotting to join the Islamic State after he was arrested at O'Hare International Airport, where authorities alleged he and his two younger siblings were about to board a flight to Istanbul.

Tounisi and Khan have pleaded guilty and await sentencing.

In a recent court filing, attorney Paul Flynn, who represents Hasan Edmonds, wrote that Hasan was scarred by a terrible childhood, including physical and mental abuse by his father, a drug addict and gang member. The abuse was so severe Edmonds' mother shot his father after his father had tried to force her into prostitution, Flynn said.

Hasan converted to Islam after his father had done so in prison, according to Flynn. Eventually he moved into his grandmother's house in Aurora, where he joined the National Guard and fell under the influence of his older cousin, Flynn said.

"But for Jonas Edmonds' fanaticism, Hasan most likely would have continued down the path of an honorable soldier and model citizen," Flynn wrote.

Jonas Edmonds' attorney, meanwhile, said that the undercover informant goaded him into tough talk about defending Islam and that he never would have gone through with such an attack.

"As a member of the Muslim religion, he has received mixed messages as to what exactly his faith requires of him," attorney James Graham wrote in the filing.

[Source: By Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune, 20Sep16]

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small logoThis document has been published on 29Sep16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.