NEW BERN — Three years after eight men were accused of stockpiling weapons in rural Johnston County and conspiring to commit jihad overseas, the ringleader of what prosecutors describe as a homegrown terror cell was sentenced in federal court Friday.
Daniel Patrick Boyd, who engaged in a plea deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony in the trials of four others who fought the charges, was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The federal accusations in July 2009 that eight men had been amassing weapons and plotting to maim, injure and kidnap people abroad brought shock and disbelief to the Johnston County community where they lived.
The case highlighted the government’s use of FBI informants to build a slew of terror cases across the country since the Sept. 11 attacks.
It also raised questions about the influence that an older, outspoken man could have over young men in a rural community who were seeking direction in their lives. Two of the eight involved were Boyd’s sons.
“Daniel Boyd recruited his own sons and others into conspiracies to murder persons abroad and provide material support to terrorism,” said Lisa Monaco, assistant attorney general for National Security. “Today, he is being held accountable for his actions.”
Boyd, 42, received a lesser prison term than some of the younger men he was accused of influencing. He pleaded guilty in February 2011 to conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder persons abroad.
One of the other men – Anes Subasic, 36 – also was sentenced in the federal courthouse in New Bern. He was given 30 years in prison for conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad.
‘This is stupid’
Subasic, a Bosnian refugee who was tried by himself because of his propensity for outbursts in the courtroom, ranted at Senior U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan and federal prosecutors during his sentencing hearing.
He shouted that he was not guilty, not a terrorist and not a Muslim.
“This is stupid and retarded,” Subasic yelled.
When prosecutors suggested that Flanagan give Subasic a sentence of life in prison, he yelled out: “How about two?”
Flanagan ordered Subasic to get a mental health evaluation while in custody.
Friday’s sentences bring to a close the first terror case in the Triangle, which came among a wave of similar post-9/11 cases across the nation. Charges were filed and arrests occurred before any violent acts happened.
The federal government used confidential informants in the Boyd case to help gather more than 800 hours of video and audio recordings.
In June 2009, investigators seized rifles, ammunition and pistols from the Boyd home.
A Svengali figure
Boyd was portrayed as a Svengali-like figure who indoctrinated young Muslims in a plot to wage jihad overseas. He called himself Saifullah – Arabic for “Sword of God.” The drywaller sported long hair and a wild beard before his arrest, and he was taped by informants spouting jihadist rhetoric, federal prosecutors have contended.
His sons – Dylan Boyd, 24, and Zakariya Boyd, 21 – also accepted plea deals in exchange for their testimony.
The cases have raised questions about how far Muslims in the United States can promote jihad and spread radical Islamic propaganda while committing no violent acts.
Defense attorneys have argued that the government’s case was nothing more than a prosecution of young Muslims who debated controversial ideas. The accused, their attorneys said, did little more than watch jihadist videos on computers and trade Facebook posts about fighting Americans overseas.
In October 2011, a federal jury convicted three of the younger men charged in the case – Hysen Sherifi, 27, Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 25, and Ziyad Yaghi, 24.
Hassan and Yaghi were found guilty of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. Yaghi was convicted also of conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country. Hassan received a 15-year prison term, and Yaghi received 31 years in prison.
The starkness of their punishments, some in the Triangle Muslim community have contended, contrasts sharply with the murkiness of their crimes. The men were convicted of conspiring, not acting, in terror schemes that never played out in the United States or abroad.
Sherifi was found guilty of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists; conspiring to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons in a foreign country; two counts of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence; and conspiring to kill a federal officer or employee. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
He has since been charged in what prosecutors contend is a murder-for-hire plot that called for the beheading of three witnesses at his trial.
Boyd’s two sons received the lightest sentences in the case.
Zakariya Boyd received a nine-year sentence for conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. Dylan Boyd was sentenced to eight years in prison for aiding and abetting a conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.