ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A man from a remote Alaska community who compiled a hit list of targets he believed were enemies of Islam was sentenced Monday to eight years in prison.
Paul Rockwood Jr., along with his wife, Nadia Rockwood, faced counts of lying to FBI agents when questioned about the list of 20 targets in May. They pleaded guilty to domestic terrorism last month, the first time such charges were brought in Alaska under the Patriot Act. The law was enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The length of Paul Rockwood's sentence was the maximum penalty for the crime. Nadia Rockwood, 36, who holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and United Kingdom, was sentenced to five years probation. She will be allowed to return to Britain and take care of the couple's 4-year-old child. She is due to give birth in November.
Authorities said Paul Rockwood, 35, of King Salmon, converted to Islam about a decade ago and followed the teachings of a cleric who supports acts of terrorism and espouses hatred for the United States. The hit list included members of the military and media.
Rockwood, who worked for the National Weather Service in King Salmon, an isolated town of a few hundred people, converted to Islam in late 2001 or 2002 when he and his wife lived in Virginia. He was enamored with the teachings of American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, prosecutors said. The couple moved to Alaska in 2006.
Federal authorities say Rockwood did far more than make a list. He considered the possibility of shooting people in the head. He began researching how to make explosive components, construct remote triggering devices and put together a bomb that could be delivered by any mail carrier, court documents say.
At Monday's sentencing, Judge Ralph Beistline had harsh words for Rockwood and his wife, describing their actions as "cowardly" and "despicable," and designed to "undermine the rule of law in the free society that protected them."
"They have betrayed everything it means to be an American," Beistline said.
Tom Bolinder, vice president of the Massachusetts-based Military Combat Defense Fund, was on Rockwood's list. He made a personal appearance for the sentencing in U.S. District Court while on an Alaskan fishing trip.
According to the organization's website, the FBI contacted Bolinder in late April and told him his name appeared on a list of people targeted for assassination. He was told to watch for suspicious packages in the mail and was informed of the possibility that certain people could try and make a trip East.
Bolinder was choked with emotion Monday while providing his victim impact statement to the court.
He said that after serving in Vietnam he made a vow never to take another life but sat up many nights in the dark waiting for Rockwood to show. If he had, Bolinder predicted it would not have turned out well, given his 34 years as a police officer and military training.
After a moment, he added that it would not have turned out well for either of them.
"I have forgiven you," Bolinder said. "My prayer is that someday we will live in peace."