- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A Minnesota man accused of threatening to kill a federal judge and FBI agents could plead guilty to a misdemeanor count on Tuesday instead of going to trial. Prosecutors say Khaalid Adam Abdulkadir, 20, made the threats over Twitter in December after his friend was arrested on terrorism charges. After closed-door meetings on the eve of trial, Abdulkadir’s attorney said he anticipates there will be a plea agreement. Here are some things to know about the case:

THE ALLEGED THREATS

Abdulkadir is charged with one count of threatening to murder a federal judge, one count of threatening to murder a federal law enforcement officer and one count of interstate transmission of a threat to injure another person.

According to court documents, he posted one tweet that included the words “kill them FBI” and another saying, “I’m kill them FEDS for take my brothers.”

Prosecutors said the targets of the threats were U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, who has been overseeing Minnesota’s terrorism cases, and the FBI agents and task force officers who are investigating the travel of young men from Minnesota to Syria to join the Islamic State group. U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier from South Dakota is overseeing the case because of the nature of the charges.

The tweets were posted after one of Abdulkadir’s friends was arrested for conspiring to provide support to the Islamic State group.

Though he is not charged with conspiring to go to Syria, court documents allege Abdulkadir communicated with or tried to communicate with others who are believed to be with militant groups.

A POSSIBLE PLEA DEAL

A pre-trial hearing was delayed Monday while Abdulkadir and his parents met with attorneys behind closed doors. When everyone returned to the courtroom, Schreier said the hearing would be postponed until Tuesday.

Defense attorney Chris Madel said afterward that there is “newly discovered evidence,” and he anticipates his client will plead guilty to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of one year. Madel says he’s hopeful his client will be released from custody and sentenced to home detention.

Madel did not elaborate on the nature of the new evidence.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

WHY THIS CASE IS IMPORTANT

The case raises some interesting issues under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment free speech protections.

The Supreme Court has found that “true threats” - which go beyond careless conversation or jokes - are not protected speech. But the nation’s highest court hasn’t said what constitutes a true threat. Does the speaker have to intend to make the threat, or is it enough that the target feels endangered?

“That is, to some extent, problematic,” said Raleigh Levine, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. “If the person making the threat never actually intended it to be viewed as a threat - if it is sort of a teen venting on twitter and not intending or foreseeing the person or people he was discussing would in fact feel threatened - then in my view there’s not a reason to go after that.”

Seamus Hughes, deputy director at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, said that while many people make unfavorable comments online, prosecuting someone with making a threat comes down to a balancing act. In this case, Hughes said, the FBI likely acted because Abdulkadir allegedly reached out to people who are believed to be in al-Shabab or the Islamic State group.

MINNESOTA CASES

More than 22 young men have left Minnesota since 2007 to join al-Shabab in Somalia; about a dozen Minnesota residents have traveled to Syria to join militant groups there in recent years.

Ten Minnesota men have been charged with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Four have pleaded guilty, one is at large and five others are scheduled for trial in May.

Abdulkadir’s case has parallels with another threats case in Minnesota. In that case, Mahamed Abukar Said was charged with two felonies for tweeting “ima whack that us attorney general” after the arrests of the six men in April. Said has since pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of impeding a law enforcement officer. He was sentenced to four years of probation, including one year at a halfway house.

___

Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti . More of her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/amy-forliti

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide