The sentencing for a Dearborn Heights man whom federal prosecutors say supported ISIS and talked about attacking a Detroit church has been postponed until later this month.
Khalil Abu Rayyan, 22, who pleaded guilty in September to two gun charges tied to marijuana use, was to be sentenced Monday on gun charges before Judge George Caram Steeh in U.S. District Court in Detroit. But the court ran out of time during statements made by attorneys in the case.
The courtroom was packed with family members and other supporters of Rayyan, who has not been charged with any terrorism crime, but with two gun charges. He entered the court in shackles, the hand portion of which was later removed during his court appearance.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit is seeking an eight-year sentence, saying he’s an extremist, while his defense attorney, Todd Shanker, is asking for 15 months. The two gun charges involve trying to buy and use a gun while he was consuming marijuana at the time.
In their statements today before Steeh, attorneys for both sides offered competing descriptions of Rayyan.
“Rayyan is not a terrorist,” Shanker said in court. “He never intended to hurt anyone.”
Shanker said Rayyan was emotionally manipulated by two FBI undercover employees posing as love interests who pushed him to make radical statements.
“I’ve never seen inducement like this,” said Shanker.
Despite the inducement by the undercover FBI employees to commit extremist acts, “every time, he says: ‘No,'” Shanker said.
Shanker said that while Rayyan did make some statements previously expressing support for ISIS, he no longer does. Moreover, Shanker said, those statements are protected under the First Amendment.
Shanker also questioned whether Rayyan was being unfairly singled out for a tough sentence because he is of Arab descent. Rayyan was born to Palestinian immigrants from Jordan.
Shanker compared Rayyan’s case to that of Sebastian Gregerson, a white suspect from Detroit charged in a separate weapons case prosecutors are seeking to link to terrorism. Shanker said the maximum sentence in Gregerson’s case is lower than in Rayyan’s case, which he said is not as severe.
Gregerson cut a plea deal last week with prosecutors.
“Is Khalil being punished for being an Arab Muslim from Dearborn, as opposed to a Caucasian?” Shanker said.
In response, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet said that Rayyan “continues to present a danger to the community. … It’s clear the defendant is dangerous.”
Waterstreet said Rayyan had talked about being a jihadist and doing a “martyrdom operation.”
“He dreamed about jihad,” Waterstreet said. “He told others about it.”
Waterstreet said Rayyan talked about killing women and children at a church “and that it would be a bloodbath.”
Bishop Charles Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit has said he was told by authorities that the church Rayyan had talked about targeting was Greater Grace.
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SOURCE: Detroit Free Press