COLUMBUS, Ohio – A judge on Tuesday sentenced a Somali immigrant to 10 years in prison for plotting to blow up an Ohio shopping mall with a man later convicted of being an Al Qaeda terrorist.
Nuradin Abdi, a cell phone salesman before his arrest, will be deported to Somalia after serving the sentence. U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley imposed the sentence as part of a plea deal Abdi agreed to in July.
In a 20-minute statement to the court, Abdi's attorney Mahir Sherif said his client apologized to the people of the United States, the people of Ohio and the Muslim community.
"He apologizes for the things he thought about and the things he talked about and the crimes he pleaded guilty to," Sherif said. "He wants to make it very, very clear that he does not hate America."
The alleged plot was never carried out and Sherif long maintained Abdi was guilty at most of ranting about the United States' handling of the war in Afghanistan.
Abdi pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support for terrorists. Three charges were dropped as part of his plea deal; Abdi could have received 80 years in prison had he been convicted of all the counts he had faced.
Prosecutors said Abdi made threatening comments about the unspecified shopping mall during a meeting with two other alleged terrorists on Aug. 8, 2002, at a coffee shop in suburban Columbus.
Abdi and the two "could attack the mall with a bomb," Abdi told his friends as they sipped $11.25 in refreshments at the coffee shop, according to court documents.
One of the men with Abdi that day was Iyman Faris, who pleaded guilty in May 2003 to providing material support for terrorism. A Pakistani immigrant, Faris was convicted of plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The third man alleged to be at the meeting is Christopher Paul, a U.S. citizen who grew up in suburban Columbus. He was charged in April with plotting to bomb European tourist resorts frequented by Americans as well as overseas U.S. military bases, and his trial is scheduled for January 2009.
Abdi was arrested in November 2003. His attorneys have said he was upset at the war in Afghanistan and reports of civilians killed in bombings by the U.S.-led invasion.
Prosecutors also say Abdi gave stolen credit card numbers to a man accused of buying gear for Al Qaeda, and lied on immigration documents to visit a jihadist training camp.
Abdi's attorneys have said that the stolen credit card numbers were never used and that the Justice Department never alleged what organization they believed was running the camp, what Abdi intended to do with the training, or whether he ever actually went.