The third man involved in a Los Angeles terrorism cell pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy charges yesterday in federal court.
Here are some details from the Associated Press:
Gregory Vernon Patterson, 23, entered his plea in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana to one count of conspiring to levy war against the U.S. government through terrorism. He also pleaded guilty to conspiring to use a firearm during that offense.
Patterson could face as many as 25 years in prison when he is sentenced in April, prosecutors said.
Last week, his two co-conspirators, Kevin James and Levar Haley Washington, also pleaded guilty. James faces a statutory maximum prison sentence of 20 years, while Washington could be locked up for 25 years because he also pleaded guilty to using a firearm in relation to a terrorist plot. The fourth suspect, Hammad Riaz Samana, the only non-American in the cell, was deemed unfit to stand trial. He currently receives psychiatric care at a federal prison.
The foursome organized themselves into a terrorist cell, led by James, called Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (JIS). The group planned on attacking local military installations, "infidels," and Israeli and Jewish facilities in the Los Angeles area.
What's worrisome to law enforcement and terrorism experts is the origin of the group: prison. The Department of Justice explains:
After forming JIS in 1997 while in state prison, James recruited Washington into the organization in late 2004 while both were prisoners at New Folsom Prison, where James had Washington swear an oath of loyalty and obedience to James and to JIS. After his release from prison several weeks after taking the JIS oath, Washington recruited Patterson and Samana into JIS and had them swear oaths of allegiance and obedience to JIS. After forming this cell, Washington and Patterson conducted about a dozen armed robberies of gas stations to supply money for the group’s planned attacks in the Los Angeles area.
Prisons have long been thought of as incubators of extremism, and perhaps the most threatening of the many extremist agendas you'll find cooped up in prisons is jihadi radicalism, as Assistant Editor Joe Straw reported last January.
The religion of Islam, however, attracts the vast majority of inmates who convert to a religion while incarcerated, and the number of practitioners dwarfs that of Muslim chaplains working in the nation’s prison system. One state prison admitted 3,000 religious volunteers in a month, “an impossible number for short-staffed prison officials to monitor effectively,” Saathoff says.
According to task force co-chair Frank Cilluffo of The George Washington University, traditional “Jailhouse Islam,” or “Prislam,” often applies a “cut-and-paste” treatment of the Koran into a radical agenda. The advocates of this radical agenda give prisoners documents like “The Noble Qur’an,” a Wahabi text including anti-Zionist notes and an appendix that calls readers to jihad.
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III commented that “This is a case in which a terrorist cell grew out of a prison cell. Despite the fact that they had no connection to al-Qaeda leaders, they had adopted their cause. These home-grown terrorists had raised the money, recruited the people, chosen the targets, obtained the weapons and set the date. All they had left to do was to strike."
Mueller then heaped praise on the various law enforcement agencies that worked cooperatively to subvert the cell's attacks before they could occur.