NEW YORK – An Arizona man convicted of helping a New Yorker join the Islamic State (ISIS) group in Syria was sentenced to 12 years in prison Tuesday by a judge who said he was not the typical "true believer" terrorism defendant.
Ahmed Mohammed el-Gammal, 48, a suburban Phoenix man who sold car parts, was sentenced by Judge Edgardo Ramos in Manhattan federal court.
Ramos said the "consequences of Mr. el-Gammal's conduct were tragic indeed" because the 24-year-old student he helped reach Syria in 2015 was eventually killed in combat.
The trial was the first ISIS-related prosecution to occur in Manhattan federal court.
El-Gammal was convicted last year for helping Samy el-Goarany, who flew to Turkey in January 2015 and made his way to Syria. El-Gammal was arrested in August 2015, months before el-Goarany's brother was informed that el-Goarany, a Baruch College student, was killed fighting for ISIS.
During el-Gammal's trial, defense lawyers argued that el-Goarany would have reached Syria anyway as he looked for meaning in life to erase his own feelings of inadequacy. They noted that others, including relatives, were unable to stop him from joining ISIS.
When he spoke before the sentence was announced, el-Gammal told the judge that he is a "proud American."
"I love this country," he said repeatedly. "I ask for forgiveness and mercy."
Prosecutors said El-Gammal and el-Goarany communicated extensively on the internet in the months before the student flew to Turkey and made his way to Syria days later to begin his military training.
Ramos said el-Gammal was not the "typical terrorism suspect ... the type of true believer" and he doubts he'll commit another crime.
He also said there was no question that el-Goarany was "very set on traveling to Syria," with or without el-Gammal's help.