SANTA ANA, Calif. – A former inmate in a California state prison who became part of a domestic terrorist cell that planned to attack United States military operations, "infidels," and Israeli and Jewish facilities in the Los Angeles area was sentenced this morning to 22 years in federal prison.
Levar Washington, 30, who was recruited into the terrorist cell while in state prison and subsequently recruited others into the plot, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney. Washington pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to wage war against the United States and a weapons charge.
Two other defendants in the case – Kevin James, who formed the terrorist group which he dubbed Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, or JIS, while in a California state prison, and Gregory Patterson – also pleaded guilty last year to the terrorism conspiracy charge. Patterson is scheduled to be sentenced on July 9, and James is scheduled to be sentenced on February 9, 2009.
In plea agreements filed in federal court, James, Washington and Patterson admitted that they conspired "to levy war against the government of the United States through terrorism, and to oppose by force the authority of the United States government."
The fourth member of JIS named in an indictment – Hammad Samana – has been found unfit to stand trial and is currently receiving psychiatric care at a federal prison facility.
"The JIS terrorist group posed a significant threat of violent action against a variety of targets," said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. "Through the fine work of members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, potentially deadly attacks were averted. Now, one of the members of this terrorism cell will not pose a danger to the United States for nearly a quarter century."
Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, stated: "This case reminds us that Los Angeles is an attractive target for homegrown or radicalized terrorists, as well as state-sponsored terrorists. Los Angeles was spared a potentially devastating attack because of excellent police work and a cohesive team effort by JTTF members. This case serves as an example of how local officers are serving in the front lines in the war on terrorism."
After forming JIS in 1997 while in state prison, James recruited Washington into the organization in late 2004 while both were prisoners at New Folsom Prison, where James had Washington swear an oath of loyalty and obedience to James and to JIS. After his release from prison several weeks after taking the JIS oath, Washington recruited Patterson and Samana into JIS and had them swear oaths of allegiance and obedience to JIS. After forming this cell, Washington and Patterson conducted about a dozen armed robberies of gas stations to obtain money for the group’s planned attacks in the Los Angeles area.
Samana researched targets and prepared a document called "Modes of Attack." The document listed "LAX and Consulate of Zion," "Military Targets," "Army Recruiting centers throughout the county," "Military base in Manhattan Beach" and "Campsite of Zion."
After Torrance Police investigators linked Washinton and Patterson to a gas station robbery, various Jihadist documents were found at a South Los Angeles apartment where they lived. In addition to the "Modes of Attack" document, investigators discovered a document titled "Notoriety Moves," which contained a James-authored statement to be given to the media after a deadly attack. The proposed press statement reads, in part, "This incident is the first in a series of incidents to come in a plight to defend and propagate traditional Islam in its purity." The document also warns "sincere Muslims" to avoid a series of targets, including "Those Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of an Israeli state."
The investigation into the terrorist conspiracy was led by the FBI's Long Beach Joint Terrorism Task Force, whose participating agencies include the Los Angeles Police Department; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the Torrance Police Department; the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; the Long Beach Police Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the Los Angeles Port Police; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and the Redondo Beach Police Department.
Substantial assistance during the investigation was provided by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, Bureau of Investigations; the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; the California Department of Justice; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations; and the Department of Defense.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office worked collaboratively with the United States Attorney’s Office during the investigation.