On Tuesday, a New York man was sentenced to 13 years in prison for attempting to join the Islamic militant group al Qaeda when he was a high school senior.
U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley in Central Islip, New York, sentenced Justin Kaliebe, now 22, after pleading guilty in February 2013 to having attempted to offer material support to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
A month earlier, Kaliebe had been arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where prosecutors said he intended to board a flight to Muscat, Oman, as part of his plan to eventually travel to Yemen.
Kaliebe was also sentenced to 20 years of supervised release.
In an email, Kaliebe’s lawyer Anthony LaPinta said, “I am disappointed and feel that a lesser sentence was warranted.”
“Justin is a harmless young man who had many psychological, medical and personal issues that contributed to his criminal conduct. Justin will make the best of his time in prison. I am certain that he will emerge as a rehabilitated, productive and respected member of society,” LaPinta continued.
Federal authorities have projected that 80 percent of Americans connected to activities backing militant Islamic crusades have radicalized themselves with information from the internet.
Kaliebe, a resident of Babylon, New York, started his plan in 2011, and divulged to a covert law enforcement operative the succeeding year that he was “doing the J word,” or violent “jihad”, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors added that Kaliebe was recorded in June 2012 as saying that once he arrives in Yemen, he expected to combat “those who are fighting against the Sharia of Allah,” be it U.S. forces or the Yemeni army.
Kaliebe got support from Marcos Alonso Zea, another Long Island resident who according to prosecutors tried to travel to Yemen in January 2012 but was seized by British customs officials and sent back to the United States.
In October 2013, Zea, 28, was arrested and sentenced in April 2015 to 25 years in prison, following his guilty plea to attempting to offer material support to a foreign terrorist organization.