PHOENIX (AP) - A witness in the investigation of a 2015 attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in suburban Dallas was sentenced Tuesday to 5½ years in prison for making a false statement to FBI agents and tampering with a witness.
Authorities say defendant Abdul Khabir Wahid of Phoenix wasn’t directly involved the attack carried out by his friends Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who were killed by police after the pair opened fire outside the anti-Islam event in Garland.
Wahid testified at the trial of Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, who was convicted of conspiring to provide guns to Simpson and Soofi.
Wahid was convicted of falsely portraying to federal agents what transpired when Simpson and Soofi, who were followers of the Islamic State, visited his home two days before the attack. He also was found guilty of witness tampering for urging Soofi’s brother to not talk to FBI agents in the weeks after the attack.
Prosecutors sought an eight-year sentence, while Wahid’s attorney asked for a three-year prison term.
U.S. Judge John Tuchi said Wahid’s false statement negatively affected the FBI’s ability to investigate the attack on a timely basis. “Even if the bureau was delayed for an hour or a day in following assets, they - and we - will never know what information was lost,” Tuchi said.
Prosecutors say Wahid failed to alert authorities that Simpson was obsessed with violent jihad and had invited Wahid to participate in an attack on a U.S. military base.
In an earlier ruling, Tuchi said Wahid was aware from visiting Soofi and Simpson’s apartment in Phoenix that the pair watched Islamic State videos of beheadings, possessed assault weapons and that Simpson had expressed a desire to avenge his faith. Still, Tuchi said Tuesday it wasn’t proven that Wahid intended for Simpson and Soofi to succeed.
Wahid said his philosophy is to mind his business or else something sinister could happen to him. Wahid said if he had tipped off law enforcement about Simpson, he feared Simpson would have known he alerted investigators.
Wahid described himself as a typical American father and said that he isn’t a terrorist. “I don’t have time for the terror nonsense that the prosecution is so desperately trying to portray me as,” Wahid said.
His attorney, John McBee, said there was no loss of life or limb associated with his client’s untruthful statement.
Prosecutor Kristen Brook said Wahid’s crimes weren’t a onetime lapse of judgment. “He’s not taking responsibility for that which he did,” Brook said.
When finding Wahid guilty last year, Tuchi concluded Wahid lied when telling FBI agents that Simpson and Soofi had come to his home two days before the attack and that all they talked about was Wahid’s children, the Islamic faith and a container of soup that his friends had brought him.
Tuchi had said Wahid failed to tell agents that Simpson had given him an envelope containing the key and title to his car - and that Simpson told Wahid to give the items to another friend, who eventually gave the key to Simpson’s father.
More than a month after his first FBI interview, Wahid acknowledged to agents that his prior statement was untrue.
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